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: Return to Blog’s Main Page

Firmware Update for Canon 5D Mark lll; Download it Now

Its not unusual for a new camera to have a firmware update shortly after release. Canon has just posted such an update for the 5D Mark lll. You should definitely download and install this update if you own a Mark lll, and should check the firmware version in any Mark lll you purchase in the future, to be sure that the latest version is installed. There appear to be some Mac OS X Firmware Updater limitations, so OS X 10.7 (Lion) users please read to the end of this article for details.


Firmware Version 1.1.2 incorporates the following improvements and fixes.

1. Supports a new accessory, GPS receiver GP-E2.
2. Fixes a phenomenon where a pink cast may develop over the image when the shutter is completely pressed with the camera’s power turned off (by the auto power off setting).
3. Fixes a phenomenon where the camera operation stops after one shot when shooting in High Dynamic Range (HDR) mode.
4. Fixes a phenomenon where the Shooting Date/Time in the EXIF data of the image shows a later time than the actual shooting time.
5. Fixes the time zone for the Samoa Islands.
6. Corrects errors in the Finnish menu screen.

Downloading the  EOS 5D Mark lll Firmware Update is a fairly straightforward process. But the link to get to the Drivers & Software page does not always trigger the list of available content as it should. If you get a blank page, between the list of pages (Overview, What’s in the Box, Brochures & Manuals, etc) and the footer (prices and specifications may vary…) back up a screen or two and try again. If that still fails, then try a different browser. You can also check that a popup survey window hasn’t been missed, which is stalling the loading of the page content. Once you have the list of contents available, the bottom of the center section should contain Drivers and Software. Downloading  will take a bit of time, since this is about an 18mg file.

Screen, as it looks with Options Missing

Please note that this firmware update is listed as being available for Mac OS X 10.5 and 10.6, but not for 10.7; which is Lion, Apple’s latest Mac version. Since firmware resides in the camera, not the computer, this leads us to assume that the Firmware Updater used to install such updates has not yet been updated to function under 10.7, unless Canon has made an error. Since all our systems are updated to 10.7, this required borrowing a 10.6 MacBook Pro for the update process, since firmware updating is a fairly serious matter, and disregarding Canon’s recommendations would not be advisable, even if it is possible.

Firmware Update NOT Available for OS X 10.7

Firmware update available, for 10.5 and 10.6

This shows you how to acquire the update, if you are under Lion, since it won’t show if you list that as your OS version. Please feel free to leave comments if any further news on Lion compatible firmware updates becomes available. If you are viewing this article from the blog’s main page, click on the article’s title to enter the article itself, where comments will be visible.

UPDATE: People are reporting success with loading the memory card with the disk image for the firmware update from OS X 10.7, and even OS X 10.8 beta. I find it hard to believe people are willing to play Russian Roulette with bricking their new $3500 camera bodies, but its reassuring to hear that they are getting away with it…

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

Free Accessory for Canon 5D Mark lll; Don’t Leave Home Without It

Whenever you get a new camera, there are always controls and settings to learn or relearn. It can be frustrating when a simple task like setting the ISO or changing to modes keeps you from being able to shoot. Reading the user’s guide is one solution, but its so similar to the previous models, and so long that your eyes may glaze before reaching the parts that are most needed. And many people learn best from hands-on experience. So one helpful accessory is a copy of the Pocket Guide in a place where you’ll always have it handy: on your smart phone or tablet.

Downloading the Pocket Guide PDF for the Canon 5D Mark lll  is a fairly straightforward process, since the file is only about a meg and a half in size. But the link to get to the Brochures and Manuals page does not always trigger the list of available Brochures and Manuals. If you get a blank page, between the list of pages (Overview, What’s in the Box, Brochures & Manuals, etc) and the footer (prices and specifications may vary…) then try a different browser. You can also check that a popup survey window hasn’t been missed, which is stalling the loading of the page content. Once you have the list of contents available, the bottom of the Guides and Manuals section should contain the Pocket Guide (EOS 5D Mark lll). Downloading should not take long, since its a fairly small file.

Next email the file to yourself, and download it to all your mobile devices. I put it on both my iPhone, which has the advantage of always being with me, and my iPad, which has the advantage of a larger screen. Now you’ll have basic directions to key functions with you when you need them, and without digging into your camera bag in search of a printed copy. Happy shooting!

Sample Page from the 5D Mark lll Pocket Guide

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

Canon 5D Mark lll, Lightroom 4 Shadow Detail at 100%

Following yesterday’s post on 5D Mark lll shadow detail I’ve had numerous requests for a pair of shadow detail images, one of the full shot, the other of a 100% detail from the same image. The image below was shot in direct sunlight, with deep shadows in the seaweed, and highlights in the barnacles for a broad dynamic range in the image. (For the geeks, this was shot at ISO 100,  f/11, 100th of a second, at 65mm with a Canon 24-105 f/4L IS USM lens). Here’s a jpg reduction of the full image, cropped in height for the subject, but the full width (minor direction) of the original file:

Mermaid's Wigstand

Below is a crop from the center of the image, at 100%, so its showing the individual pixels, with minimal jpg compression in this version of the image. The image was opened into Lightroom 4.1. Three adjustments were made, all of them lens-specific. A sharp prime lens would probably require less, if any, adjustment for all three of these controls. They  were: an increase to Shadows, and increase to Clarity, and an increase to Saturation. Your mileage (and lenses) may vary. Please click on the detail below for a 100% view. For more articles on the 5D Mark lll, and on Lightroom 4, please consult the right column.

Mermaid's Wigstand Detail at 100%

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

Canon 5D Mark lll, Lightroom 4 Shadow Detail

The shot below was taken the day after Easter, with the Canon 5D Mark lll. Two things we are always looking for from a new camera is more resolution, and more dynamic range. In this case the shot was time-sensitive, so switching to the 70-200mm lens which was in the camera case in the back of the car would have cost me the shot. Instead I stepped out of the car door, to remove the windshield from the photo, zoomed the current lens (24-105mm) to its longest throw, and shot just in time to capture this frame, before the crow flew away with his prize Easter egg.

Crow with Easter Egg; 5D Mark lll crop, Lightroom 4.1 processing

So the question is: what would have been more useful here, more resolution, so that I’d have more pixels in this heavy crop, or more dynamic range, which allowed me to open up the shadows to bring definition to the crow? For those of you not yet reading between the lines, I’m asking if Canon’s choice in the 5D Mark lll in favor or not increasing resolution, and using that capacity to improve dynamic range instead, offered more to this shot; or if I would have been better off with Nikon’s new 800d, which would have produced half again as many pixels, but without an equivalent boost to the dynamic range.

Given the amount of character the detail in the feathers, and especially the eye, provide to the image, I’m not sorry it was the 5D used. And credit is due to Lightroom 4.1 as well, since the ability to bring out such shadow detail without undue noise and artifacts is something that previous versions of Lightroom could not have managed.

Another factor I should note is autofocus: I have used all my previous DSLR cameras almost exclusively in manual focus mode. The 5D Mark lll has such amazing autofocus I find I am using it more and more. Here, the time to manually focus was lacking, and it was only the fact that the camera was already in autofocus mode that saved the day. Picking the crow, tiny in the original image, out from the array of other highly detailed elements in the center of the frame was little short of amazing.

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

Color Management and Workflow Features in Photoshop CS6 Public Beta

Concerns about Photoshop Upgrades in General

I’ve heard photographers complain, as Photoshop updates appear, that the newer versions are really not about photography, or the at least not the features they use for photo editing, and that some of the new features actually get in the way of the things they need to do. I can certainly understand this point of view, and when I see a photographer decide to “freeze” at one version of Photoshop or another, to avoid having to learn new techniques, or pay for another upgrade, or to avoid breaking older filters, plugins, and scripts that are important to their workflow, I don’t object. But I do warn them that such a choice may eventually effect their ability to upgrade to new computers with newer operating systems, or use new plugins from their favorite plugin providers, and may require developing a different workflow for getting RAW files from new cameras into their older version of Photoshop. And that the leap forward will only be more painful, the longer they avoid it.

So while we all may feel some frustration when our favorite key command no longer does what we want it to, or a rectangular box interferes with our view of what we are doing, learning the tricks to make the newer versions of Photoshop work is part of the effort of remaining up-to-date in the world of photography.

However, Photoshop CS6 appears to be a more dramatic jump forward than previous updates. This may be intimidating, and it may cause photographers to search their souls, and their wallets, before deciding to migrate to Photoshop CS6. Fortunately Adobe has a free public beta of the application available, so that a much wider range of users can try the application in advance of release than with previous Photoshop updates. While you are at Adobe Labs to download the Photoshop Public Beta, remember to download the latest Adobe Camera Raw Release Candidate as well. This version 6.7 is not compatible with the latest cameras, but it does offer other improvements for anyone opening RAW files into Photoshop CS6 PB.

The Biggest Change in CS6: The Interface

Ever since Photoshop 1 (and thats not CS1, but the actual PS1) the interface to Photoshop, with some changes for the OS and OS version, has been similar: menu bar on the top, a tool palette, typically vertically formatted on the left, and as time went on, more and more floating palettes that can be added on the right. These elements floated in free space, with your desktop showing behind them. Options to run Photoshop full screen were available, but were usually limited to displaying images to clients and other such special occasions. The Photoshop interface shown below doesn’t go back to the depths of time; its from the current release version of the product.

Photoshop CS5 interface

Photoshop CS6 breaks with this tradition. It now has its own window, with its own background. The look is darker, and the text, in some areas, is smaller, and inverted to show on the darker backgrounds. Those who use Adobe Lightroom will recognize this look, as will those who use Adobe video editing apps like Premier and After Effects. In that sense Photoshop is late to the party, and its change of interface is less revolutionary than evolutionary; evolving to follow the general trend of the Adobe line. Here’s what that the default interface in Photoshop CS6 looks like,compared to CS5 above.

Photoshop CS6 Interface

Beyond any initial shock at a version of Photoshop that doesn’t look like Photoshop, you may notice that very little else has actually changed. The same menu items, tools, and palettes are here, even if the look and feel has changed. This is not to say you won’t find yourself wandering the corridors of Photoshop CS6 searching for something you knew perfectly well how to find in CS5. But it won’t be that much more frequent an experience than it was with earlier updates. The most common questions I hear from people seeing this “bounded window” interface is whether, like Lightroom, it will limit their flexibility in moving images, using multiple displays, moving between applications, etc. I’ll address these concerns below.

The New Features, which I’m NOT going to Review

I could  include a description of interesting new features in Photoshop CS6, but it would not actually be that much different than the run-though in Russell Brown’s video on that topic. So please take a look at Russell’s video if you are curious about the cool new tools. I’ll just note that some of them extend on recent additions, like content aware fill, and may work well sometimes, and not others, so they can speed up your process, but won’t necessarily eliminate the need for classic Photoshop skills. They also include what I’m tempted to call “Feature Creep” with actual video editing, transitioning, and font abilities moving inside Photoshop. This may seem counterintuitive, after all, there are other apps for that. But as we shoot and edit more video with the same cameras we use for our still photography, being able to library video along side stills in Lightroom, and process clips in Photoshop along side stills may eventually seem not just reasonable, but obvious.

The Color and Workflow Related Items which I AM Going to Cover

Those of you who know me will already realize where my focus with any Photoshop Beta is going to be: the features and changes that effect Color Management, and the Digital Workflow. Lets start with issues of the new Photoshop  workspace window, and image location.

The Main Photoshop window, which is now a dark rectangle, can be run in full screen mode, where it is quite reminiscent of Lightroom. This means that the most common method of moving to other apps will be by using the “Hide Photoshop” command from the Photoshop menu list. This window can also be reduced in size, and will act like a typical floating window, capable of being moved around the screen, or to other screens, as desired. In this mode moving to other applications may occur by clicking on windows in the various apps to bring them to the front, the more traditional method of navigating.

Images open in Photoshop CS6 also have two possible modes. Depending on whether the “Open Documents as Tabs” option in the Interface tab of Photoshop Preferences is checked, or unchecked, you images will open as fixed tabs in the Photoshop window, and further images opened will tab with them. This method can be very convenient for checking “before and after” differences between files, and others such uses, but for many long-time Photoshop users it feels like a straight-jacket, and unchecking this box is the first thing some users do. In the unchecked mode your images are free floating windows… unless you drag them too near the top bar, or the top bar of other images, in which case they will nest in the main window, or with the other image window, forming tabs. They can be removed using the “rip a sheet off the tablet” effect, by dragging them away from the top bar of the window to free them. This tabbing behavior is not new to CS6, but has been increased by the option to nest images as tabs in the new Photoshop window; a natural extension of the previous option… or an added aggravation depending on how comfortable you become with this mechanism.

Images freed from the new Photoshop Window, can be moved off the new Photoshop background; something that is not necessarily obvious to first time users. While the background appears to define the limits of the Photoshop application, in fact its a recommendation, not an enforced rule.  So if the Photoshop workspace window is reduced to cover only part of a large screen, images can be moved off the background and stored elsewhere for later use (though fans of the tabbed interface would point out that tabs offer a much cleaner method of doing the same thing).

From a color management point of view, the new interface has its advantages; a controlled color background only makes sense. It helps assure consistent viewing conditions, and reduces variation in editing results. And for those of you who have been ignoring us Color Geeks for years, and are using color, not grayscale, images as your desktop image, the enforced backdrop is even more critical.

On the other hand, there is the question of color management for images removed from this new controlled environment. Even though the Photoshop workspace and its backdrop are limited to one of your displays, moving a free floating image to another screen triggers the correct change in display profile that has always been necessary to provide multiple display matching. So one key color concern about the CS6 is eliminated.

In fact, it is possible to stretch the Photoshop workspace to cover more than one display, though this is limited by how well the geometry of the displays in question match. Another interesting function is that moving the Photoshop workspace to another location or display will move any images tabbed to the workspace window with it, but will leave floating images behind, now displayed against your desktop or other apps that happen to be open in the background. This behavior is logical, but may take a few tries to get accustomed to.

Next; The Color Settings

The Edit menu is where the Color Settings have resided for several generations of Photoshop. This has not changed with CS6, all three of the Color Settings Commands are located in their usual places.

Photoshop CS6 Color Settings Menu

The Three Color Settings Windows accessed from this menu, shown below, are also unchanged. So color management, as we know it, has not been reshaped, as happened in the case of one or two previous Photoshop updates.

Photoshop CS6 Color Settings Windows

Next we will look at the Soft-proofing options in CS6. This is an important color management function for many users. Here, too, we find everything looking just as we last saw it in CS5.

Photoshop CS6 Custom Proof Setup

The remaining areas of concern are the Photoshop’s Printing options. Below is the CS6 Main Print Dialog. Reassuringly familiar.

Photoshop CS6 Main Print Window

The Print Settings Options are also unchanged, as shown below. This does not guarantee that color managed printing using a custom profile will be possible with all printer drivers; as some older drivers are not updated to the newer Print Path. But it does mean that any printer/driver combination that printed correctly from Photoshop CS5 should do the same from CS6.

Photoshop CS6 Print Settings Dialog

So while testing will continue, and the final word on Photoshop CS6 is yet to be written, it appears that standard color managed functions of viewing images on multiple displays using display profiles, opening and saving images with appropriate tags, and printing using output profiles are all available and unchanged in CS6, so that Color Management should not be the deciding factor on your decision on whether or not to update to the new version. I will warn you that a few weeks of working with CS6 Beta will make it difficult to consider moving back to CS5 when the Beta period expires.

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

Color Calibration Comparison: Canon 5D Mark lll from Different Profiles

In my recent article comparing the color response of the Canon 5D Mark lll in Lightroom 4.1 with and without SpyderCheckr calibration received a lot of interesting responses. The most frequent questions were: what profile did you use (answer: Adobe Standard, for reasons that will become apparent below), and what effect would changing that profile have on the color? That seemed like a valid line of enquiry. I also thought it appropriate to also show what would happen if I build a calibration on top of each of these profiles, and applied these calibrations for comparison. The usual caveats about what you see on your (possibly uncalibrated) monitor through your (possibly non-color managed) browser apply.

First its necessary to understand the importance of defaults in such settings as Tone Curves and Profiles. Images are imported into Lightroom, and unless  you build a special Preset, and specifically include things like a Tone Curve and a Profile into that preset, and remember to import all images through that Preset, then you (like 99% of Lightroom users) will end up processing your images on top of the default settings. So my standard recommendation is to leave the Tone Curve and the Profile at the default, and to build your custom SpyderCheckr camera calibration (and your SpyderCube white balance and exposure adjustments) on top of those settings. That way you won’t have to remember what settings were in place when you created the calibration, and the chance of you having the wrong settings in place when you apply the calibration are minimized.

Also note that pushing the Reset button in Lightroom’s Develop Mode will reset the Tone Curve in Process2012 to Linear, and the Profile to Adobe Standard, even though you might not have intended either of those actions. One more reason its safest to build on top of the defaults, to ensure consistency, and minimize errors.

Next, I built three different calibrations in the SpyderCheckr software, all from the same shot of the SpyderCheckr target, taken with the Canon 5D Mark lll camera. In all cases I left the Tone Curve set at the new default of Linear. In all cases I left the intent in the SpyderCheckr application set to Colorimetric, the most literal setting. For one calibration, I left the Lightroom 4.1 Profile set at the default profile of Adobe Standard. For another I set the Profile to Camera Standard. And, to test one of the “flavored” choices, I also build a calibration with the Profile set to Camera Portrait.

I then opened the same 5D Mark lll test image I used in my previous articles in Lightroom 4.1, at its default Profile setting of Adobe Standard, and captured what the color from that looked like. I then applied the Lightroom Preset I had build for the Mark lll at Adobe Standard, and captured that as well. These two images were combined side by side into an Uncalibrated/Calibrated image. That image is below. Click on it to see the results at 100%.

Results using Adobe Standard, Uncalibrated, then Calibrated

These results, though I created a new calibration, and newly applied it to the image, are similar to the results in the previous article, as the same configurations are used. Next I repeated the same test, with Lightrooom 4.1 now set to the Camera Standard Profile. The results for this pair of images are below.

Results using Camera Standard, Uncalibrated, then Calibrated

These results are quite similar to the first pair. Camera Standard is not quite as oversaturated to Adobe Standard, showing a bit better color detail since it is not as bleary, and with a somewhat different hue. Calibration, starting from these two different hues and levels of oversaturation, is satisfyingly similar. This is what calibration is supposed to do. Calibration takes two inaccurate and dissimilar monitors, and makes them both correct and similar by calibrating them. Camera calibration similarly corrects both versions of the image, and as a result makes them a closer match as well. This is very reassuring.

Now to test with a “flavored” Profile. One intended for Portraits is shown below.

Results using Camera Portrait, Uncalibrated, then Calibrated

Here the  reds are less oversaturated then either of the previous cases, but the near whites show much pinker and more saturated. Note that the calibrated result on the right adds a bit more color detail in the reds, and reduces the over saturation and excess density in the near whites considerably. As a calibration can’t fix everything, there are compromises required. The worse starting point of this Profile resulted in less accurate reds than the other calibrations, in the process of curing the heavily over saturated and too-dark near white zone. This result would indicate to me that one of the other Profiles would be a better starting point for calibration, much as it is possible to choose a better media setting in a printer driver before profiling the printer.

It makes sense that avoiding intentional flavorings and non-linear Profiles in advance of creating a Camera Calibration is a good idea. The fact that the default (Adobe Standard) Profile offers good results in convenient, as it allows users to feel comfortable doing what is easiest: calibrating on top of the default, for the least chance of later errors in applying the calibration to future images as they are imported.

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