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

The Future of Photo: Beyond the Resolution Wars

As cameras and camera-phones gain sufficient resolution so that increases in pixel count are no longer critical, what will further increases in sensor capabilities be used for? So far, there appear to be a few answers to this question. The first is that multi-layer sensors such as the Foveon chip become less important, as we now have resolution to waste. Lytro, on the other hand, proposes to use the extra pixels to capture multiple depths of field at once, and allow you to choose your focus after the fact. Clever, but a bit gimmicky. Nikon’s more recent answer is: More Cowbell! as they move to a 36MP sensor in the new Nikon D800.

Canon, on the other hand, may be holding steady, if it releases its Canon 5D Mark ll replacement (rumored name: Canon 5Dx) at the same 22MP resolution as the current version, and instead uses the extra capability to boost dynamic range and speed, and to reduce noise. This choice would sit well with videographers and time lapse photographers, who stand to gain nothing by increased resolution, but lots from increased sensitivity. Still photographers (are there still any still photographers; doesn’t everyone shoot at least a little video?) may also prefer the dynamic range and speed increases over what for most uses is excess resolution. If my f/4 lenses are now as fast as f/2.8 lenses on the previous body, then I can carry a lot less mass, and pay a lot less for lenses. Another possible reason for Canon and Nikon making different choices would be that Nikon’s unique lens surfacing techniques may allow them to push resolution further, while Canon might well exceed their lens resolution with a large increase in sensor resolution; which would mean that targeting speed and dynamic range improvements make more sense, if resolution gains could not be supported by the glass. And lets be clear: most lens, under most conditions, are struggling to produce razor sharp 22MP captures: few circumstances outside the studio could manage more.

But what about today’s new buzz: a 41MP camera phone, with a Zeiss lens? Let me start by saying that improved lenses in camera phones are much appreciated, as are larger sensors. The improvement from the 5MP iPhone 4 to the 8MP iPhone 4s is significant. Apple produces only one phone per year, and must aim it at the least common denominator, so a photographer-specific iPhone is not a likelihood. Making a big bulge on the back of the iPhone for a camera is not likely to suit general tastes, either. So far, add-on lenses are the iPhone photographer’s friend. But Nokia is struggling for market differentiation and market share; having vastly more megapixels than anyone else is certainly a headline capturing technique. Having a brand-name lens (however diluted that brand may now be) also will catch a lot of attention. The real question is: what resolution and image quality this will produce? Nothing close to a 41MP medium format or DSLR with professional lenses, its safe to assume. But  more resolution than most current 5 to 8MP phone cameras, without doubt. One interesting note is that it will have a 5MP  mode, for practical, real-world shooting, and the downsampling should reduce noise in the process. That choice may say more about the real-world resolution of the camera than the headline catching 41MP number.

But from a practical point of view: I can carry a wide range of pocket-size dedicated cameras. I will have an iPhone in my pocket no matter what (Nokia does not offer what I want in non-camera features) so a Nokia camera-phone would simply be a Nokia camera to me.

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