Dynamic Range -- what it is, what it's good for, and how much you 'need'

Started Oct 17, 2011 | Discussions thread
Great Bustard
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Absolutely -- noise floor and saturation limit define DR
In reply to John Mason, Oct 18, 2011

John Mason wrote:

to dynamic range

Certainly when you are pushing or pulling an exposure, I'll take all the dynamic range I can.

The biggest difference I see besides color accuracy between my full and m4/3rds is the ability to push or pull the exposure in post. There is very little room to do this on m4/3rds sensors.

I like DXO's noise floor cut-off on their dynamic range measurement. Puts some realism back into the measurement.

All measures of DR have a noise floor, since the DR is defined as the number of stops from the noise floor to the saturation point. It's just how you define the noise floor.

In most cases, the stated DR is at the pixel level ("screen" on DxOMark) rather than the image level ("print" on DxOMark). The noise floor can be taken as the read noise or the 100% NSR (DxOMark, and I, use the latter). However, the difference between the read noise or 100% NSR in the DR measurement is inconsequential until the read noise gets very low (1-2 electrons), and no DSLR sensors are there yet.

The auto graduation feature to supposedly give more DR on Olympus cameras has, to me, only made the noise in the shadows to get that DR (seems like fake DR) not worth it.

On the other hand, in most cases, the exposure on my e5 is nailed not requiring much adjustment in post and I have enough DR.

When I do need more DR I'm typically switching to 7 stop HDR mode on my E5 which gets me more than I'd get on the Nikon anyway. Still that's one impressive sensor Nikon has.

E5 HDR shot (say's E30 but this was before Raw as supported so I tweaked exif)

and even more extreme

Neither of these would be possible as a single shot on any camera I'm aware of.

Combining multiple exposures gives the most DR (and by a large margin), but usually requires a tripod and a scene with no (or very little) motion. I understand that there is some impressive HDR software (AutoPano Pro, for example) that does an exellent job of aligning and merging, and perhaps even takes care of moving elements in the scene, to some extent (maybe that was some other software, however).

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