Jan 162009
 

It’s Friday morning now, I’m still behind, these are Wednesday’s pictures, I may catch up during today’s five hours on the train though.

On Wednesday I rose at 4:30am, hoping to see the HTTPS problem fixed, that prevented me from posting. No luck though, so I simply went to work much earlier, even before 6am, taking my time, shooting in the dark of pre-dawn morning on lonely streets.

I arrived at work before dawn and left long after dusk. In the meantime snow fell. You may have noticed that my attitude against winter is largely positive this year. It’s funny, but I like it. It could still be argued though, that snow in the city is one of the more unwelcome presents of nature, and as such it is treated. It takes about 20 minutes, and the white streets are filled with black sludge. With current temperature levels it’s to stay for some days though.

On a more technical note, Jen commented on the low noise of Tuesday’s picture, the one with the couple who needs to talk it over. I read the comment only minutes ago, but it comes as a nice coincidence that all images of today’s bicycles were shot even higher, not at ISO 2500, not at 3200, no, at ISO 6400.

The noise level at 100% size on screen is not as low as it looks here, but it is pretty good. The D300 is no D700, but the D700 is no D800 either, if you know what I mean 🙂

Cameras come and go. What the D300 can do, that is much more than the D2X ever could, and that one was considered pretty high-level pro, right? Today’s craze is the D700, but in a year, when a D800 will be with us, it will be considered obsolete. In fact, I could buy cameras all the time, one each year, every one will be better than its predecessor, at least in a certain way, but – really – even with the D300 I am in territory that had never been charted in film days. And still there were some pretty good photographs taken on film, don’t you agree 😕

The Tuesday image was developed with DxO Optics Pro, that’s part of the low noise level. The combination of Adobe Camera RAW and Noise Ninja (or one of the other leading anti-noise plugins) can come close to DxO, but DxO is still better.

Today’s images are JPEGs straight out of the camera. That’s how ISO 6400 looks unprocessed. I can see no fault here, can you? Doing it in B&W does the trick. ISO 6400 in color is unacceptable on the D300, at least unprocessed. Using DxO it can well be usable though.

When I’m talking about noise, I’m talking about looking on huge images, like prints of at least A3, or looking at full-screen images on a 1920×1200 display. I don’t talk about the image sizes that you see here on the blog or that you get by clicking on any of my images. Noise is no problem of web-sized images today. No problem at all.

Deliberately shooting at ISO 6400 and with the camera set to B&W is something that I do once in a while. It is fun. Try it. Set your camera to the highest ISO, turn it to a B&W preset, shoot RAW + JPEG. The JPEGs will be B&W, the RAW will still have all the color information, but chances are, that you won’t miss color. You wouldn’t have missed it with a roll of B&W film loaded either. Now go out and shoot. Forget about ISO and technical image quality. You are at the lowest level now, it can’t get any worse. Shrug, see, compose and shoot some good pictures. Just don’t consider shooting test charts 🙂

As regards image titles, I’ll soon be through this album, I guess. The Song of the Day, “White Is In The Winter Night“, is one more time from Enya’s 2008 concept album “And Winter Came”. Hear it on YouTube.

Nov 092008
 

Two days ago I partook in a thread about the D300’s usable ISO range in the Nikon camera forum on Photo.net. Josh Eudowe asked

Has anyone played around with the true ISO range of the D300 in an indoor setting? Just curious to know at what point you’ll start to see the image quality affected. I’m using, for the most part, f/2.8 lenses on my D300.

Like always it was interesting to read about what people consider acceptable image quality. Most people seemed to agree that ISO 1600 is very usable, many found ISO 3200 acceptable when shooting RAW and under special circumstances, and nobody but me found ISO 6400 usable at all.

Today’s image was shot in the morning, in the workshop of my father. I was there because I needed him and his big car for another transport.

My father has several walnut trees and thousands of walnuts laid out for drying. I saw the pattern, took some shots at f1.4 and found that in the dim light even that put me above the base ISO of 200. You know that I love shallow DOF, but in this case I didn’t want to display an abstract image of a slice of a nut, I wanted to show the multitude, in other words I needed more DOF.

Normally I have my tripod always in the back of the car, but since I had needed it last night, I had left it in the apartment. Thus, in order to get the shot at all, I had to increase ISO. I did it by switching to shooting bank B, that I have set up for a fixed ISO 6400 and JPEG output in slightly toned B&W. This is a JPEG right out of the camera. Not so bad, is it? In fact, I consider this extremely usable. Sigma 50/1.4, f8, 1/30s, ISO 6400.

The Song of the Day is “Nutty” from the 1957 album “Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane”. See a video on YouTube.

713 – When You Got A Good Friend

 Sigma 30/1.4  Comments Off on 713 – When You Got A Good Friend
Sep 252008
 

I’m still shooting B&W images at ISO 6400, and this is one of them. Not that the B&W JPEG was bad, but I decided to try working on it in color, just to see where I get. Well, that’s one of the advantages of shooting RAW. Whatever you set your camera to, the RAW file is still raw sensor data, and of course all color information is still there.

The result: just as with yesterday’s images there is nothing wrong with this. At ISO 6400 a color image certainly needs some work to look this good, but it is no problem either. Verdict: ISO 6400 is usable as well, at least in good light. Night shots definitely deteriorate easier.

The Song of the Day is “When You Got A Good Friend” by Robert Johnson. Now, looking at the lyrics, I see that this probably does not describe exactly what the relationship between Erich and me is, but, oh well 🙂

I have the Robert Johnson original on disc 47 of “The Ultimate Jazz Archive“. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 252008
 

Can you remember “593 – Controversy“? Well, this is the same place and the war goes on 🙂

This post had many inspirations. Faced by the new Canon 5D MkII, you can feel a certain tension in the Nikon crowd 🙂 Everybody expected a 24 megapixel camera for Photokina, and what did we get? A 50/1.4. It may be fine, but I doubt it will be better than the new Sigma 50/1.4, though smaller and lighter.

Paul Lester recently wrote a clever post, “Avoiding occasional G.A.S cramps“, where he fights the lust for a D700 by using the D300 that he has. I have the slight suspicion that he is not yet really over it, at least he still reassures himself. Paul, let me tell you, that’s only the other side of G.A.S. 🙂

The other inspiration was Janine L. Thun from Hamburg. She has a beautiful daily photoblog, and in private conversation she asked me about the D300, considering buying one. I talked about my project to get a D700, and that way I arrived at my statement that, although high ISO is absolutely fine on the D300, ISO 6400 is not usable any more, and if at all, then only in B&W. She asked me for samples at 6400 and, well, here we are.

Reassurance? Click on any of the images. They all are JPEGs straight out of the camera. No Photoshop, no cropping, no nothing. I have set the camera to picture style “Monochrome” with a slight yellow tint applied, ISO 6400, and that was it.

It’s interesting what happens when you take ISO and noise out of the equation. Not that there is so much noise to begin with, at least at the sizes that I display here. It is a wholly new style of shooting, carefree.

There is something pleasant to the noise these new Nikon cameras produce. It began with the D200, and since then Nikon has perfected this film grain like look. I guess I will experiment with post-processing such images, because of course they may need some cropping, they may need a vignette applied, they may be material for any kind of my usual tricks, but what I have seen so far has made me feel very comfortable with my camera. Which may or may not preclude me from buying the D700 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Straight, No Chaser” from Thelonious Monk’s 1961 live album “Thelonious Monk in Italy”. See him perform eight years later on YouTube.

Jan 062008
 

Just when I wanted to drive to Klagenfurt for a photo session in the early evening, we had freezing rain and the street was glazed with ice. Thank you very much! I turned around, went back into the house and with me slipped our cold and wet cat Tonto. Here he is, taken by me lying on the floor, seen through the Sigma 20/1.8 at f1.8 and 1/160s.

What’s remarkable about this image? Oh, nothing, it’s the only one I have. And yes, one thing, it’s been taken at ISO 6400 🙂

My original idea for yesterday, inspired by a hands-on report on The Luminous Landscape about the Nikon D3 and D300, was to set my D300 to ISO 6400 (H1.0 in the ISO settings), de-activate Auto-ISO, activate picture control “monochrome” and shoot some B&W with a fast lens, e.g. the Sigma 20/1.8. The theory was, that most of the noise would be color noise (at least that’s the case with the D3 at ISO 25600) and B&W would come out quite well.

This is pretty much against my normal shooting style. The sane thing to do would have been to set maximum ISO to 6400 and leave the camera at Auto-ISO, but in this case I wanted to stick to 6400, just to see how good or bad it gets.

With the weather being as it was, this image of our cat is the only one I made, and I made it in not so dim light, the fast shutter speed of 1/160s would not have been necessary to freeze the cat (he was already frozen), but on the other hand, these are settings that may be very useful when you have to take images of moving people.

What did I do to this image in post-processing? I’ve cloned out a leave of grass that was entangled in his hair, I’ve copied the catchlight on the right eye to the left, I’ve increase contrast in the eyes, cloned out two distractions in the background, cropped the image, added a vignette, a levels adjustment layer, and finally I’ve toned it.

What I did not do, was any kind of noise reduction. Therefore, the noise that you see (rather not see, even if you click on the image to get the bigger version), is just as it came out of the camera. Actually it must have been slightly increased in magnitude, due to the levels adjustment.

Is this good enough for a newspaper? All the time! Is this good enough for a print? This depends on what you want. You certainly lose detail, but when you compare it to anything you would have been able to get with film, it’s still amazingly good. Thus, while color images from the D300 suffer badly at ISO 6400 (3200 is the maximum that I’d recommend), in B&W it is perfectly usable. I shall do some more experiments at that setting, maybe today, maybe next week in Vienna.

The Song of the Day is “Cold & Wet” from Bonnie “Prince” Billy’s 2006 album “The Letting Go“.