Can we have too much Dynamic Range?

Started May 2, 2014 | Discussions
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(unknown member) Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Can we have too much Dynamic Range?

Not wishing to be provocative since virtually everyone seems to think more DR is better, but can we have too much Dynamic Range? Can a sensor with a greater DR produce end up producing results that look 'flat' without post processing?

After all many photographers, especially landscape photographers, used to prefer certain films like Fuji Velvia and that had a quite limited DR.

Opinions?

Ron Poelman
Ron Poelman Veteran Member • Posts: 5,120
No. It's easy to "limit" in PP...
2

if that's what you want; so, the more the merrier.

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crashpc Veteran Member • Posts: 5,092
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?
2

Nope. Greater dynamic range itself doesn´t have anything to do with image output. What makes those images flat is compressing DR from each sides (dark/bright) of light amount into viewable form. This is all that nasty pushing of shadows and stuff. If there is shadow, It should in many cases stay there. So one should use not only DR more wisely instead of pushing everything what can be pushed. That´s all. If I go for image that needs great DR to be compressed, I don´t care what range the camera has. I pick enaugh images by exposure bracketing that it has "total" dynamic range, better than any current cam can produce. Of course this is not possible for faster mooving objects.

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Why does he do it?

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Dave Lively Senior Member • Posts: 1,735
No
5

A camera with high dynamic range will not produce pictures that look like poorly done HDR at the default settings.

Both the camera's JPEG engine and raw processors will try to generate the best possible looking results, not use all the available dynamic range.  So in good light images from a camera with very high dynamic range will start with about the same levels of contrast as cameras with low DR without any additional post processing.

But the additional dynamic range will give you more options when you do need to post process an image, either because it was a high contrast scene to start with or because you did not get the exposure right.  I take a lot of pictures outdoors and being able to pull back highlights and lighten shadows really helps.  The increased dynamic range is the main reason I often take a camera with a large sensor on hikes instead of a small compact.

Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 16,443
Not in my book!
5

I'll take all you got!  DR isn't about how flat and lifeless a photo can be, it is about finding the exact level of contrast that works for the photo in question.  Just because I have a tool doesn't mean I have to use that tool.

The difference between a photographer and a snapshooter is control.  The photographer knows how much he has, knows how to use it, and when to stop using it.

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(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: No

Dave Lively wrote:

A camera with high dynamic range will not produce pictures that look like poorly done HDR at the default settings.

Both the camera's JPEG engine and raw processors will try to generate the best possible looking results, not use all the available dynamic range. So in good light images from a camera with very high dynamic range will start with about the same levels of contrast as cameras with low DR without any additional post processing.

So are you saying that sometimes not using all the available dynamic range produces 'better' looking image?

But the additional dynamic range will give you more options when you do need to post process an image, either because it was a high contrast scene to start with or because you did not get the exposure right. I take a lot of pictures outdoors and being able to pull back highlights and lighten shadows really helps. The increased dynamic range is the main reason I often take a camera with a large sensor on hikes instead of a small compact.

(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: Not in my book!

Glen Barrington wrote:

I'll take all you got! DR isn't about how flat and lifeless a photo can be, it is about finding the exact level of contrast that works for the photo in question. Just because I have a tool doesn't mean I have to use that tool.

The difference between a photographer and a snapshooter is control. The photographer knows how much he has, knows how to use it, and when to stop using it.

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Of course.  A 'photographer', assuming he is skilled and knowledgeable enough, should know.

But how about someone who is not in that bracket and is just using out of the camera JPEGs?

Toccata47 Senior Member • Posts: 2,784
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?

meland wrote:

Not wishing to be provocative since virtually everyone seems to think more DR is better, but can we have too much Dynamic Range? Can a sensor with a greater DR produce end up producing results that look 'flat' without post processing?

After all many photographers, especially landscape photographers, used to prefer certain films like Fuji Velvia and that had a quite limited DR.

Opinions?

Opinons? Yes, I have one. This thread sets a new low.

jeffcpix Senior Member • Posts: 1,424
Re: No

OK, so you've captured a scene with an enormous DR* -- what medium do you intend to use to display your capture. You may be able to 'hold' both highlights and shadows but what kind of contrast can you expect from 'toes' and 'shoulders'? The only medium I know of that can give lots of contrast in both highlights and shadows is oil painting.

Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 16,443
Re: Not in my book!
1

meland wrote:

Glen Barrington wrote:

I'll take all you got! DR isn't about how flat and lifeless a photo can be, it is about finding the exact level of contrast that works for the photo in question. Just because I have a tool doesn't mean I have to use that tool.

The difference between a photographer and a snapshooter is control. The photographer knows how much he has, knows how to use it, and when to stop using it.

-- hide signature --

Of course. A 'photographer', assuming he is skilled and knowledgeable enough, should know.

But how about someone who is not in that bracket and is just using out of the camera JPEGs?

A camera manufacturer won't produce ugly OOC jpgs and remain a camera manufacturer for long. Just because a camera/sensor/lens combo is capable of wide DR, doesn't mean the manufacturer is obligated (or stupid enough!) to deliver dull lifeless photos.

Most manufacturers now tend to overexpose photos anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of an EV. Why? to make the jpg photos look a tad 'brighter'. The cameras are fully capable of delivering a properly exposed photo, and many can be changed to do so. The manufacturers will auto deliver the images that SELL the most cameras.

It's the same with contrast.

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Glen Barrington
Glen Barrington Forum Pro • Posts: 16,443
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?
1

I suspect meland is playing dumb to make a point.  But like his vision of DR, it is too widely focused and diffused for anyone to get it.

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(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?
2

Toccata47 wrote:

meland wrote:

Not wishing to be provocative since virtually everyone seems to think more DR is better, but can we have too much Dynamic Range? Can a sensor with a greater DR produce end up producing results that look 'flat' without post processing?

After all many photographers, especially landscape photographers, used to prefer certain films like Fuji Velvia and that had a quite limited DR.

Opinions?

Opinons? Yes, I have one. This thread sets a new low.

Oh come on, give us a break.  It's a serious question, although I'm wondering whether I will be able to 'tease' any serious answers out of something which many here seem to accept as gospel.

But if you don't have anything to offer just don't demean yourself.

MoreorLess Senior Member • Posts: 3,849
Re: No

meland wrote:

Dave Lively wrote:

A camera with high dynamic range will not produce pictures that look like poorly done HDR at the default settings.

Both the camera's JPEG engine and raw processors will try to generate the best possible looking results, not use all the available dynamic range. So in good light images from a camera with very high dynamic range will start with about the same levels of contrast as cameras with low DR without any additional post processing.

So are you saying that sometimes not using all the available dynamic range produces 'better' looking image?

Definitely, extreme DR can be a useful tool for post processing but getting into the habit of lifting every shadow obviously isn't good.

For me the biggest misunderstanding that people seem to have is that DR and resolution is what matters for base ISO whilst more standard read noise only matters at high ISO.

The reality is that standard read noise is just as if not more important a factor even at base ISO because its going to always be present, not just limited to shadows.

If you offered me say a 5D mk3 or a D7100 to shoot landscape I'd pick the Canon dispite the lower DR, partly because the larger sensor doesn't push lenses as hard and partly for the lower standard read noise and notality.

(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?

Glen Barrington wrote:

I suspect meland is playing dumb to make a point. But like his vision of DR, it is too widely focused and diffused for anyone to get it.

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OK, thanks for that Glen.  Well let's focus in a bit then to make it easier, if indeed people are struggling with the question.

Aptina, for example, make some very high dynamic range image sensors for automotive use where extremes of light ranging from a car's headlights to dark ditches can be captured in the one image.

However if you were to try and use such a sensor in a camera the results would probably be horrible, mainly because colour accuracy and tonal range wouldn't be acceptable to photographers.

So, what if anything, gets sacrificed in making, say, a CMOS sensor capable of rendering a wider dynamic range?

crashpc Veteran Member • Posts: 5,092
Re: No

meland wrote:

Dave Lively wrote:

A camera with high dynamic range will not produce pictures that look like poorly done HDR at the default settings.

Both the camera's JPEG engine and raw processors will try to generate the best possible looking results, not use all the available dynamic range. So in good light images from a camera with very high dynamic range will start with about the same levels of contrast as cameras with low DR without any additional post processing.

So are you saying that sometimes not using all the available dynamic range produces 'better' looking image?

Exactly!

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Why does he do it?

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(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: No

crashpc wrote:

meland wrote:

Dave Lively wrote:

A camera with high dynamic range will not produce pictures that look like poorly done HDR at the default settings.

Both the camera's JPEG engine and raw processors will try to generate the best possible looking results, not use all the available dynamic range. So in good light images from a camera with very high dynamic range will start with about the same levels of contrast as cameras with low DR without any additional post processing.

So are you saying that sometimes not using all the available dynamic range produces 'better' looking image?

Exactly!

-- hide signature --

Why does he do it?

Now we're getting somewhere!    

Fogel70 Contributing Member • Posts: 545
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?
1

A default jpg image from a camera with 15 stops of DR does not have to look any different from a camera with 10 stops of DR. The camera with higher DR just throw away more image data when producing jpg images.

Having more DR does not have to make any difference when you don't need the extra DR, but when you do it can makes a hell of a difference.

(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: Can we have too much Dynamic Range?

Fogel70 wrote:

A default jpg image from a camera with 15 stops of DR does not have to look any different from a camera with 10 stops of DR. The camera with higher DR just throw away more image data when producing jpg images.

OK, what does it throw it away? What are the parameters for making those decisions of what to throw away?

Having more DR does not have to make any difference when you don't need the extra DR, but when you do it can makes a hell of a difference.

I don't disagree - but are there any negative trade-offs to achieve that DR in the first place? Colour accuracy?

Lightpath48 Senior Member • Posts: 3,748
Tonality of color neg film?

When my son-in-law bought his Nikon D5100 I immediately saw what looked like "duller" images than those from my D5000. I later found out that his camera's sensor had superior DR, and with a little PP, those images were significantly better. My little Fuji X10's DR400 images tend to look flatter than its DR100 images by quite a bit. But again, they perk up with PP, yet without the clipped highlights of DR100 shooting. This makes me wonder whether the ever higher DR characteristics of digital sensors may one day bring them into the realm of color negative film tonal characteristics. I've been missing them over the past fifteen years, since leaving film and going digital.

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(unknown member) OP Senior Member • Posts: 5,590
Re: Tonality of color neg film?

Lightpath48 wrote:

When my son-in-law bought his Nikon D5100 I immediately saw what looked like "duller" images than those from my D5000. I later found out that his camera's sensor had superior DR, and with a little PP, those images were significantly better. My little Fuji X10's DR400 images tend to look flatter than its DR100 images by quite a bit. But again, they perk up with PP, yet without the clipped highlights of DR100 shooting. This makes me wonder whether the ever higher DR characteristics of digital sensors might be bringing them into the realm of color negative film tonal characteristics. I've been missing them over the past fifteen years, since leaving film and going digital.

Interesting.  I can see someone is starting to think about it.

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