Best colors is relative
Best colors is relative ... the myth and other things
Well, let's try to demystify it a bit
First, better colors is very relative, depends on the personal tastes, and all this article is my opinion, I am not God, so take it like a personal outflow. (also please forgive my English, but hope I can make my point because English is not my main language and sometimes is hard to express all I need to say)
Sometime ago, (and I start with this like an example), when I looked at the 4/3 Olympus system and went to that forum I read a lot of the mythic Olympus colors, than I decided to buy one, the good E-30, at that time I was using Nikon, what I discovered was that Olympus colors can not be always accurate and this happens on all brands, (anyone who have used many know what I am saying), Olympus have a bit more saturate colors and apply different curves like any brand also apply, what happens is that Olympus in some situations have a more warm tone, and that can please some but not all can be pleased, also the boost on saturation can modify what is called accurate, again this accuracy is relative, what is important to say is that some my prefer warmer and more saturated colors, but this does not mean that the colors are better, for example Fuji is famous for good greens, but again not for all the users, Nikon, Canon, and Sony, have their own approach to colors, Panasonic has also a different approach as Leica have their onw, but we are speaking of not big differences, and this I am saying is for JPEG's.
Also even on the same brand, we can choose the style of color we like or the one for a specific situation, is for that that all brands have settings for standard, natural, nature, vivid, and some more depending on the brand, the names they give can change, that is good, because one user may like vivid colors and other like natural colors.
I have seen lately a case from a friend that have a Panasonic Lumix, and was not happy with some color cast in some situations, them he listened to what Olympus users said about the colors and have bought an Olympus to test the results and compare, I have seen the examples on the skin tones from the Panasonic and Olympus cameras taken by that him, and the differences there were not noticeable, but in some situations Olympus have produced a bit more warmer tone, this is typical on ambient light pictures taken with Olympus, Panasonic on ambient light have a bit more cold colors, but neither can be called accurate, sometimes happens that the WB works fine and colors are really accurate, but not always. (this again in any brand). And the result of this experimentation was that he returned the Olympus because he told me that he noticed the same issue with the Olympus, and stayed with the Panasonic, but to me the contrary can have happened, like could have happened between a Canon and a Nikon.
I am refering Olympus becuase of the good reputation they have on JPEG, and is one of my favorite brands, I don't have the intention to denigrate the Olymnpus colors, I have only used as an example, because no other brand have such a myht about colors, and myths always contain some thruth behind, if I like an Olympus camera (or other) I will buy it, but not anymore due to what people say about the colors or other features.
For example a Nikon user can say that Nikon colors are the best, and a Canon user the same, it is really a matter of personal tastes.
If we look at the studio samples taken on same conditions, in principle ... some not so good lamps can produce different color temperatures depending on the time they are on , the differences are minimal but sometimes enough to see for the ones that are more used to analyze a picture. So, better look at samples taken with good light sources to compare cameras and lenses.
There are many color temperatures on artificial light and with the sun light, it is interesting to take many pictures at different hours of the day, as the sun rotates and look at the different results we can get.
Some people like the sunrise light or sunset, others the mid day, others the dawn and dusk tones, and between these there are also differences, not to mention what clouds can do to the color tones. Even different locations on this planet have different kinds of light.
Other thing to pay attention for example when taking portraits, is to see if we have sources of light near the subject that can affect the image, even the clothes, and other things, can produce non pleasant or pleasant results, or a lamp near, or a window, or the green of the plants, all this can produce some color cast, that is one thing that an experienced photographer always should observe before taking the pictures, and he can also adjust the camera white balance and fine tune it, or choose a color style to correct or to try to get the result he needs or like. (I say this for RAW or JPEG, for RAW because it is easier to start processing with an already good image)
So I think it is time to not use the color argument for the choice of a camera, today photographers that use mirrorless cameras and DLSR's mostly take pictures on RAW, and that is a good idea, what is wonderful on the digital photography age is that we can do fantastic and superb things on post processing, if we learn to do it well, so colors are not so significant, I prefer to choose a camera based on the dynamic range and resolution that it can deliver, and the signal to noise performacne, as the build quality, and the lens choices.
The important to say is that, we most choose (if we care to do it) not only the camera but the whole system.
I can not mention one brand to be more accurate than other on this matter
But there are some I prefer, I mentioned the RAW to do post processing but you can do it also with JPEG, you can do it easily using a good image editor like Photoshop, Lightroom, Silkypix, Capture One, Corel Paintshop Pro, Corel Aftershot, RawTherapee (a freeware program), and some others, and tune all the things you like to get the result you want.
Imagine you spent 15 minutes adjusting the colors on an image editor to your taste and then you show the image on the web, (or even print it), and someone says, what horrible colors ... What you are going to think ? After spending that time to do it perfect and read something like that ... but can happen the contrary, and someone say, wonderful colors, that is why this is a delicate and very subjective matter, and the same happens on the opinions about an image, some like others don't, it is the way it is, it is good to have different tastes.
But ok, there are some standards and notions of what is good and accurate colors, but we must know the light sources well, and understand how all this photographic process works, and that only comes with time if we are really interested on learning.
I used to develop color film and do prints of the pictures I took for clients, because I did not rely on commercial labs, and sometimes one client like a lot and other don't, and if he don't, I had to process them again until he is satisfied.
Even with black and white it is relative, some prefer strong blacks, others prefer medium tones ... it is really difficult to please all the tastes.
I am now using two cameras and four lenses, I choosed the Micro 4/3 System, but before I was using DLSR's, and I can not say that one system is better than the other, each have different characteristics, what I can say is the one I prefer, and liked, for the current use I made of it.
These days are good for photographers, tecnhology always advancing, and many sourcers on the internet, to read and learn, but we must take care and filter all this large ammount of information to our own needs and tastes, this is why you also should filter my words on this little and humble article, I am not a guru, and also from some photographic gurus you must do it, this is because each of us have differentt "realities", sometimes to much complicated explanations can not help so much like other ones more simple just because of this.
Other thing that can make confusion on the people minds, is some information given by people who only care to say that the brand they use is the best, what we should read is that is the best for them, but not necessarily for you, this a normal humam behavior for some, but we should be aware of it.
A good advice is to buy some good photography books from trusted authors that keep things simple and not biased.
Oofff, better stop, I typed a lot, and could even type more, hope I made my point and those who had the patience to read this have understood well what I really mean.
On these days with so many cameras and lenses, and even photograpic software, (good sites like Dpreview), if one is not well informed can be a lot of "trouble" and confusion, to choose what is the right one for us.
Tips for good colors
First I want to say that I started working like a pro with film (more with positive film than with negative), on that time it was really necessary to not error and it was important to take the picture with the best settings and also choose the right film characteristics to the scene and light situations, I also developed color and black and white at home, and when they need more prints I used good printing services. But these days things are more simple, at least to me.
Ok. Now in digital I have always applied almost the same rules I learned with time and experience, that said, when I take pictures now, I care to fine tune the AWB or I set it to manual depending always on the conditions I have.
On my cameras now first I set the Film mode now called on the Panasonics Photo styles, that I think will do better, and fine tune the AWB, this manual fine tune is memorized by the camera, I have always a default setting to correct what I think is needed, but I can change it if is needed.
On my cameras the default I have is to reduce a bit of magenta, and a bit less blue, and a bit more yellows, this works fine on the Panasonic Lumix cameras (at least on the 12 megapixels sensor), and give more appealing results, similar to what Olympus engine does. I am talking about JPG's that is about 40% of the pictures I took. In RAW I use the same philosophy of having on the camera the best settings for what I want to do. (but is not so necessary like it is on JPG)
Sometimes I use a neutral gray card, but not so much, because with experience I can predict the way the camera will behave. (again to do this you must really know your camera)
Other thing I care is the metering, usually I use spot mode in Manual or Aperture mode. and I measure the light in the zones I want. I don't follow always the rule to exposure to the right like it is some people advice. I have to know the cameras well for all this, and it is all a matter of adapting the best way to the situation you have.
Of course this is easier to do with the style I use to shoot that is now landscapes. But it works for other kinds of photography. I set the WB fast because I am used to do it, once set it will work fine if the conditions of light do not change.
After knowing that I have good files on the camera, and I went home, I go to process them, usually in Lightroom but I like to try and I have others programs like Capture One, Silkypix, Raw Therapee, and now I am amazed with Photo Ninja (really good this new program).
But let's concentrate only on Lightroom, I do not process much as it might seem, what I do first is to check the exposure, that usually I don't need to change. After that I go to see the low and highlight recovery to see what works better, many times I don't need to change anything here.
Besides this I give if necessary a bit of Clarify that is micro contrast, I sharpen or not as necessary. Then I go to the noise reduction and apply only the needed to improve without losing much detail. After all this I go to take a look at the HSL (hue saturation and luminance) for each color. On landscapes I give a bit more of blue and green on saturation, like an example, but all this procedures I am telling, always without exaggerate, to try to keep the natural look, but there are sometimes that I like to give a bigger boost, again it depends on the scene.
I rarely crop, and I rarely go for lens corrections.
Good pictures, And the best camera and lenses are the ones you have it with you.
All the best,
Some images I took on my country for you to enjoy some nice places here, Portugal (near Lisbon)
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions held by dpreview.com or any affiliated companies.