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Digital Snappy Stuff


The Digital Question


My take on it

Quite a question really - I was once informed by somebody that digital would never replace film - the rest is history. I consider the issue was always one of time and cost.


In truth if digital was available in place of film years ago I would have run with it as I have never been a fan of the vagaries of film quality and processing (how many prints had grey skies with no cloud and the rest of the picture exposed correctly!). Results from pro labs were usually of excellent quality but far more expensive as well. I also wanted to get involved with the processing but the logistics of it all was rather daunting - toxic chemicals, special dark rooms, expensive enlargers and all the rest .... The development process required that you had to learn all about Black & White processing before colour and since I wasn't at all interested in B&W it was a problem. Still that was the film world and it was the best on offer at the time.


Recent developments in digital have been dramatic and for me the chance to have an electronic darkroom and a ton of flexibility (able to change the ISO setting on the fly, varying presentation styles and faster production cycles) was compelling. Some would say that using post-processing is cheating and not for the purist but as far as I am concerned I'm not a purist and all I have ever wanted is a tool to take a picture (quicker than painting) with good results. If I make an error in composition, exposure, etc then the post-processing comes in handy without having to go to a pro lab.


Unquestionably to go digital with SLR's is expensive particularly if you still use manual focus lenses ( I still used FD stuff). The running cost of sticking with film is now minimal (if you have the gear already) and will only be a problem if the supplies of film start drying up or getting more expensive due to reduced demand.


The case for digital aside from the cost however is quite attractive - variable ISO,flexible post processing capabilities, convenience, variable output options (print, electronic).


Some of the downside is -

Capital cost -    

  • Digital body
  • EOS Lenses
  • Compact Flash storage cards

Ongoing cost -

  • PC hard disk storage
  • Printing costs
  • Software manipulation costs (time and applications)

Having good experience of Canon product I unashamedly followed the Canon route mainly from the point of view they seem to excel in the low noise performance area (equates in part to film grain).


The 5D for me was the closest in spec to the T90 but the cost was quite high. The 20D was very much cheaper but for me had a limitation - it has an APS-C sensor rather than the full frame sensor. I preferred to have a body that gave the normal 1:1 Field Of View with the lenses rather than a 1:1.6  factor (50mm lens on a 20D will give a FOV of an 80mm lens).


The subject of FOV and sensor sizes certainly makes for interesting reading however.


Some sensor data is shown HERE


From what I saw in the reviews the 20D looked the business for telephoto work since the smaller sensor (APS-C) allows a shorter (and generally lighter) focal length lens to be used for a given FOV. Interestingly the pixel density of the 20D is high compared to the 5D so if a 5D image is cropped down to give the same FOV as a 20D then the resolution of the 20D uncropped image would be better. I guess that until the pixel density of the 5D sensor gets closer to that of the 20D then maybe cropping a 5D image isn't a good idea. For me this issue was interesting because in the old film world the bigger the negative the better the image because the grain was the same size for a given film type at the same ISO, exposure, etc. Because the sensors have differing pixel densities and noise sensitivities (due to size of pixel) with the addition of how the sensor is processed in the camera software it is difficult to say that a larger sensor should automatically give more image quality.


The higher pixel density of the 20D sensor seems to give it an advantage for cropping and the noise performance seems to be comparable with the 5D despite the smaller pixel size of the 20D. However the 5D still has the advantage of a 1.0x FOV factor and given time if the sensor was given the same pixel density as the 20D one then one would expect the cropping ability to be just as good (with the advantage of the bigger sensor of course).


On balance the 20D looked a good value option but I decided to run with the 5D keeping in mind that cropping performance may not be as good as the 20D and vignetting/light falloff will be more of an issue with the full frame sensor. I also found that the 5D felt better in the hands and not hugely different from the T90 - the major difference in feel being that I used to use mainly primes on the T90 whereas now I'm using the nice EOS zooms which are a bit bulkier overall. The big decider for me was simply to be able to use EF lenses with the correct focal lengths and FoV's - darn it I'm a dinosaur at heart!!!!


Note: For those folk looking at the same choice the 30D has just been introduced - it is essentially a 20D with a better LCD, spot metering and other good stuff as used in the 5D. The price looks good but if you want a fullframe sensor then the 5D is still the first option available.



Canon 5D

Digital Postscript



The story so far ...

The 5D certainly ups the ante on needing to know about white balance, color temperature, etc but it is fun being able to fiddle with it all. It is great to be able to shoot RAW and then tweak the snaps in a workflow program (Canon DPP or RawShooter are useful).


I feel the release from the film world already.


Why I am happy to be leaving the film world ..


   Just recently I've had a shocker of a time with using Kodak HD200 film, all the snaps had a "muddy" flat appearance and I'm still trying to sort out whether it was dubious processing or the emulsion.

The snaps were printed on Royal Digital paper and my feeling is that if the paper has been tuned for digital then the results with film may not be as good.


There is definitely (in the UK at least) a trend occurring for the supplies of film to be reducing in range and availability. I needed to use the HD200 because supplies of Kodak Royal Gold & Supra dried up. I've since been told that the HD200 has gone off the market and the only consumer film on offer from Kodak is the venerable Gold and the Ultra which is an ISO 400 film. There is no longer much choice in pro film from Kodak either.

The metering systems on good film cameras are excellent these days which only left the film and the processing as the wild cards - this was quite manageable even with Kodak's marketing vagaries and sometimes poor quality control but these days the minilabs are gearing/geared up for the digital print market which means that machine settings may not be optimal for standard film processing.


Getting good screen snaps from digital is no problem so the next challenge will be getting through the colour space hurdles and getting some good prints!


Been taking a few snaps lately and certainly to my eye the 5D is weak on highlights. It seems to me that the White Balance tends towards the colder end of the scale leading to washed out snaps. I find that using the Cloudy setting for the WB gives reasonably accurate results (even in high bright sun) whereas using Daylight or Auto WB is washed out.


A test was done using ExpoDisc with the results -


1st image taken WB = Daylight, ISO 100, temperature was recorded at 5350K


An ExpoDisc was then used to calibrate the custom WB and the temperature was recorded at 6300K


2nd image taken WB = Custom, ISO 100, temperature was recorded at 6200K


I have certainly noticed that there is a dynamic range limitation with shots that involve contrast (eg: shade of building in 20% of shot with blue sky in 20% of shot with rest of shot just average and using evaluative metering with shutter priority) in that the highlights will blow out easily on the whites. It seems that to guarantee a reasonable exposure without blown highlights 2/3 stop of under-exposure is required




EOS 5D RAW & Picture Styles



My take on it ...

The 5D along with the 30D and 1D MkIIn uses Picture Styles.

Looking at the Canon manuals and reading stuff on the web it is not entirely clear whether these Styles will affect the RAW image taken by the camera.


I did some tests with the 5D and it appears to me that the Picture Styles do not affect the RAW image but the White Balance setting does.


Because there is no Picture Style setting of off/not used/etc then whatever style is set in the camera will be recorded in the EXIF info with the RAW image. The RAW image is unaffected by the style but if the image is viewed in Canon's Digital Photo Professional software the style will actually be applied to the image. This to me seems to be a deficiency in the DPP software since it makes it impossible to view the RAW image without a Picture Style being applied. It seems another RAW viewing app that doesn't understand Picture Styles needs to be used to view the RAW image relatively unadulterated.


Some of the ambiguous notes in the manuals -


 EOS 1D MkIIn

P. 53
MENU Setting the Image recording Quality
About the RAW

The RAW assumes that the image will undergo post-processing with a personal computer.
Special knowledge is required, but you can use the bundled software to obtain the desired effect.
<RAW> images are processed according to the white balance and Picture Style set at the time of shooting.
Image processing refers to adjusting the RAW images's white balance, contrast, etc to create the desired image.


EOS 1Ds MkII

P. 45
MENU Setting the Image recording Quality
About the RAW

The RAW assumes that the image will be processed by a personal computer.
Special knowledge is required, but you can use the bundled software to obtain the desired effect.
<RAW> images are processed according to the color matrix, white balance and
processing parameters set at the time of shooting.
Image processing refers to adjusting the RAW images's white balance, contrast, etc to create the final image.

EOS 5D (P. 51) & 30D (P.53)

MENU Setting the Image recording Quality
About the RAW

The RAW assumes that the image will undergo post-processing with a personal computer.
Special knowledge is required, but you can use the bundled software to obtain the desired effect.
Image processing refers to adjusting the RAW images's white balance, contrast, etc to create the desired image.

Missing clause - "<RAW> images are processed according to the white balance and
Picture Style set at the time of shooting." - this no longer appears in the 5D & 30D manual further confirming that RAW is unaffected by Picture Styles.

Another source which I have doubts about -

http://photoworkshop.com/canon/picturestyle/file/index.html
(1) Original RAW image data is never changed by use of Picture Styles or other
controls in the camera or Canon software. If a particular effect is tried and
is not satisfactory, simply select different Picture Styles or other RAW image
settings, and process the file again.


Camera settings

White Balance (affects RAW)
Auto  (3000 K - 7000 K)
Daylight  (5200 K)
Shady  (7000 K)
Cloudy  (6000 K)
Tungsten  (3200 K)
Fluorescent  (4000 K)
Flash  (6000 K)
Custom
Kelvin

Camera Picture Styles (do not affect RAW in camera)
Supplied in camera -
Standard
Portrait
Landscape
Neutral
Faithful
Monochrome
3 x User Defined

Downloadable from Canon -
Nostalgia
Clear
Twilight
Emerald
Autumn Hues