Picture Style

In addition to image parameters the EOS 5D features Canon's new "Picture Style" approach of providing preset parameter sets. Picture Style is Canon's new approach of providing pre-programmed processing parameter sets which provide a different look suited to a particular type of photography.

Each Picture Style can be thought of as being similar to different types of 'film', each one is made up of a tone curve, color map and default sharpness. The camera comes with six programmed Picture Styles but you can download other styles from Canon. The disappointing aspect of Picture Style is that the tone curve and color map are not revealed to the user, you have to experiment to understand the effect of each Picture Style. An approximate summary of the available Picture Styles are as follows:

Picture Style Canon description Tone curve Color
Standard Vivid, crisp general setting usable for variety of conditions. Type 1
(more contrast)
Slightly more saturation
Portrait Produces a soft texture and beautiful expression of skin color. Type 1
(more contrast)
Medium saturation, skin tones get a pink hue
Landscape Sharp expression with particularly vivid results for blues skies and green hues. Type 1
(more contrast)
High saturation, blue and green emphasis, hue chg.
Neutral With post-processing in mind, saturation and contrast are low. Type 2
(neutral, flatter)
Low saturation, neutral hues
Faithful Faithful production of the subject's colors, with no exaggeration. Type 2
(neutral, flatter)
Low saturation, colormetrically accurate
Monochrome Monochrome expression in black & white, sepia, etc. Type 1
(more contrast)
B&W, can use filters (red, green, orange, etc.)

* Note it was our experience that the 'Type 1' tone curve can lead to the clipping / wash-out of highlights especially on white subjects. In this case it is sometimes advisable to either decrease the gamma setting or adjust the digital exposure compensation.

Pictures Styles compared

Place your mouse over the label to see a ColorChecker chart shot in the respective mode. The differences in both color response and tone are fairly easy to make out in this comparison. You can see that Standard and Neutral have similar color responses apart from saturation and contrast, portrait is designed to enhance skin tones and landscape for bluer skies and more natural looking greens.

Standard Portrait Landscape
Neutral Faithful Monochrome

Picture Style 'real life' example

Below are six images in different Picture Styles produced from the same RAW image. Each was saved at a reduced size to aid full size display / download speed (in these examples we're only interested in tone and color).

Standard Portrait
Landscape Neutral
Faithful Monochrome (red filter)

The Picture Style "clipping issue"

Each Picture Style has its own color response map and tone curve, this means that contrast zero ('0') on one Picture Style does not necessarily correspond to the same setting in the next. We found that Standard, Portrait, Landscape and B&W used one tone curve (more contrasty) and Neutral and Faithful used another (more like the EOS 20D). A representation of these curves can actually be seen when using Digital Photo Professional to convert RAW files, as demonstrated below. As you can see using any mode with the first tone curve (S/P/L) can lead to clipping of highlights.

Standard
Neutral

Picture Style variances, DPP vs. RIT, RAW

Anyone who has followed the various software offerings from Canon will understand that RAW Image Task (the RAW conversion portion of Zoombrowser) is essentially a 'DSP emulator', that is it emulates the image pipeline in the camera to deliver results from RAW which are identical to the camera. Digital Photo Professional however has always been the 'outsider' using its own RAW conversion it has a different 'look' to its images (often preferable).

Picture Styles now pose a little bit of a problem for Canon, because obviously they are supposed to be a 'standard look' that you will expect to be the same from the camera and through whichever RAW converter. I'm fairly comfortable accepting some variance between RIT (same as camera) and DPP but to be frank the difference is more stark than that.

Color / tone difference

  Standard Neutral *
R
I
T
D
P
P

Detail / clipping difference

  Standard Neutral *
R
I
T
D
P
P

* Note that by default Neutral would have a sharpness setting of zero (0) but when changing Picture Style in DPP the sharpness setting does not change, hence remains at level three (3) when switching from Standard to Neutral. For comparison we also set sharpness to level three (3) in RIT.