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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Using the SpyderCube with Photoshop CS6 & Camera Raw 7.1

Once Lightroom 4 directions were completed, next on the list was a matching list of directions for using with Photoshop CS6 and its mate, Adobe Camera Raw 7.1. I’ll post those directions here, so that anyone using the SpyderCube who has upgraded to  CS6 can give this a try, and can send me comments if desired. I will include the annotated illustration for Photoshop CS6; I created a similar illustration for Lightroom, but did not include it with the previous post, since it was focussed on sample before and after images.

Adobe Photoshop CS6/ACR 7.1 introduces improved adjustment controls, and requires a new method of adjusting images using the SpyderCube.

1. Trigger ACR 7.1, by opening a RAW file that includes the SpyderCube, in Photoshop CS6. Set the White Balance by using the eyedropper to sample from the center of the lighter of the two gray faces, which represents the primary light source’s color temperature and tint.

2. View RGB values in the Histogram Section. Set the Exposure control so that the lighter gray face has RGB values of 128, or your preferred card gray value.

3. Set the Whites control so that the lighter white face has RGB values of 230, or your preferred card white value.

4. Turn on White Clipping Indicator. Check that Specular Highlights in Chrome Ball reach 255 and trigger White Clipping Indicator. If not, increase Whites level to achieve Specular Highlights, and adjust white face back to 230 using Highlights control. Optimize relation between Specular Highlights and Card Whites with Whites and Highlights controls.

5. Turn on the Black Clipping Warning. Adjust the Blacks control until the SpyderCube’s black trap is mostly or entirely to the Black Warning color; RGB values of 3 or less.

6. Adjust the Shadows control until the black face shows RGB values of 13 to 26, depending on the amount of “bounce light” illuminating the black face. Turn Black Clipping off for visual check that black trap can be easily distinguished from black face.

7. Recheck the card white and card gray RGB values again, as each adjustment can effect the adjustments made before it. Retune until optimal.

8. Apply this set of adjustments to all other images shot under these lighting conditions by saving a Preset from the Settings Menu, and applying to each image, or apply to an entire group of images using Adobe Bridge.

This method now has five controls, instead of the three used in earlier Processes, offering finer control of shadow-to-black ratios and black clipping, and highlight-to-whites ratios and white clipping.

Adobe CameraRaw 7.1 interface, with the key elements noted.

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

Using the SpyderCube with Lightroom 4

I’ve been working on the necessary directions for using the Datacolor SpyderCube with the new controls in Lightroom 4’s Process 2012. I’d appreciate any feedback from photographers who try this out. You don’t need to take a new shot of the Cube to test this, you can take a previous image with the Cube in it, reset it in Develop (which will automatically update it to Process 2012), then use these directions for making your adjustments with the new controls.

1. Go to the Lightroom Develop Mode. Set the White Balance by using the eyedropper to sample from the center of the lighter of the two gray faces, which represents the primary light source’s color temperature and tint.

2. View RGB values in the Histogram Section. Set the Exposure control so that the lighter gray face has RGB values of 50%, or your preferred card gray value.

3. Set the Whites control so that the lighter white face has RGB values of 90%, or your preferred card white value.

4. Turn on White Clipping Indicator. Check that Specular Highlights in Chrome Ball reach 100% and trigger White Clipping Indicator. If not, increase Whites level to achieve Specular Highlights, and adjust white face back to 90% using Highlights control. Optimize relation between Specular Highlights and Card Whites with Whites and Highlights controls.

5. Turn on the Black Clipping Warning. Adjust the Blacks control until the SpyderCube’s black trap is mostly or entirely to the Black Warning color; RGB values of 1% or less.

6. Adjust the Shadows control until the black face shows RGB values of 5% to 10%, depending on the amount of “bounce light” illuminating the black face. Turn Black Clipping off for visual check that black trap can be easily distinguished from black face.

7. Recheck the card white and card gray RGB values again, as each adjustment can effect the adjustments made before it. Retune until optimal.

8. Apply this set of adjustments to all other images shot under these lighting conditions by using Previous button, or by saving as a Preset.

This method now has five controls, instead of the three used in earlier Processes, offering finer control of shadow-to-black ratios and black clipping, and highlight-to-whites ratios and white clipping.

I tested this process on a number of my own files, and this example was a compelling argument for using the Cube. We often think such assistance isn’t needed outdoors under  good sunlight, and even less important with a lens such as a Lensbaby. But the shots below show the SpyderCube used under just such conditions, and a related image before and after applying the resulting SpyderCube corrections. It produces a noticeable improvement in white balance, turning the sky a more appropriate sky blue, the shingles a more accurate shade, shows more saturation in the flowers, opens the shadows on the porch, increasing shingle detail under the porch roof, while improving the punch of the dark windows.

So while its tempting to show the radical improvements that using the Cube provides to difficult situations, instead I’m showing what it does in a situation where even I wasn’t sure it was really necessary…

Could  I have made similar adjustments without the Cube? Perhaps, but how does one know just what corrections to make, without a reference? The Cube manages to pack several references into one device, and captures side lighting of the type in this photo in a way that a flat target does not; a flat target would captured much less sun, and much more blue sky bounce, and given a significantly cooler white balance.

This is the shot with the SpyderCube in it, after adjustments.

Here’s what the next frame looked like, at default settings in Lightroom.

Here are the subtle, but excellent, adjustments the Cube settings provide.

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