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JPEG Tone Curves / dynamic range

Our Dynamic Range measurement system involves shooting a calibrated Stouffer Step Wedge (13 stops total range) which is backlit using a daylight balanced lamp (98 CRI). A single shot of this produces a gray scale wedge from the camera's clipped white point down to black (example below). Each step of the scale is equivalent to 1/3 EV (a third of a stop), we select one step as 'middle gray' (defined as 50% luminance) and measure outwards to define the dynamic range. Hence there are 'two sides' to our results, the amount of shadow range (below middle gray) and the amount of highlight range (above middle gray).

To most people highlight range is the first thing they think about when talking about dynamic range, that is the amount of highlight detail above middle gray the camera can capture before it clips to white. Shadow range is more complicated; in our test the line on the graph stops as soon as the luminance value drops below our defined 'black point' (about 2% luminance) or the signal-to-noise ratio drops below a predefined value (where shadow detail would be swamped by noise), whichever comes first.

Note: this page features our new interactive dynamic range comparison widget. The wedges below the graph are created by our measurement system from the values read from the step wedge, the red lines indicate approximate shadow and highlight range (the dotted line indicating middle gray).

Cameras Compared

The RX1 uses quite a gentle tone curve if you turn DRO off - capturing and conveying more highlight tones in its JPEGs than most of its rivals. Indeed Canon 6D owners will need to engage highlight tone priority mode if they wish to capture the same amount of the very brightest tones. This highlight capability is paid for in the shadows, where the RX1 clips to black rather sooner than most of its rivals.

The result, thanks to the camera's pretty reliable metering, is JPEGs with a nice, smooth transition to white when there are overexposed regions. And, while without DRO this can mean slightly plugged-up shadows, turning DRO on means you get well-balanced shadow regions too.

Color Modes

At RX1 uses slightly different tone curves for most of its color modes but they're all subtle variations on a theme, usually including slight variations on the standard tone curve with a slight increase or decrease in either or both of shadow and highlight contrast.

DR Modes

DRO (Dynamic Range Optimization) is an adaptive algorithm that brightens the dark regions of images to give a more balanced result while retaining local contrast. Understandably it gets a bit confused by our test chart but the test shows how it can effectively pull more detail out of the shadows and into the more visible areas of the image.

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Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1

Comments

Total comments: 25
moji
By moji (5 months ago)

With my budget I can only buy the EVF for this camera! Shall I invest in this system by buying the EVF and stop smoking and save money to get the camera later on? God, some people have money!

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
LegacyGT
By LegacyGT (5 months ago)

It is certainly pricey... but then I remember a story passed on by a friend who worked in Africa.

He helps a local village build its first deep well to provided reliably clean drinking water. Stream water is bad because if it is contaminated by animals or human excrement it can cause illnesses that are deadly in those parts of the world. Afterwards a village asked what was on the cover my friend's book (postcard? I can't remember exactly) and he said it was a public fountain, something similar to the well they had just built in a village. The village asked what it as for... and my friend said "well basically it is pretty to look at" and the villager was just against that someone would use water... which is one of precious things in the world to that village (either for irrigation of crops or for drinking) merely for decoration.

Moral of the story... much of the world is aghast at how much money we Americans have. Yet we are always aghast when someone else might have even more money.

2 upvotes
jburrows500
By jburrows500 (3 months ago)

Have patience grass hopper... In 3-5 years you will see full frame compacts going for $1200.. Today you can go to Walmart and buy a 55" flat screen for less than $500. Five years ago that same TV was $2200.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
jrlosangeles
By jrlosangeles (6 months ago)

"The main drawbacks stem from the camera's autofocus performance. While not at all bad, it's not fast enough for 'decisive moment' street shooting."

Kind of a strange comment, given that the man who coined that phrase and mastered that style (Henri Cartier-Bresson) shot with a manual focus camera ...

1 upvote
RodluvanII
By RodluvanII (6 months ago)

Word, difference is though, he had a great viewfinder, zone focused and didn't care about this new fandangled thing called bokeh. If this had a great MF lens and viewfinder to match, I'd be all over it.

0 upvotes
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

Rod you are dead on but unfortunately many shooters don't understand depth of focus. Leica lenses have almost always had markings for virtually Every aperture. When I first moved to auto-focus I complained to the owner of the professional shop about the lack of markings and he laughed and told me very few even knew what they were for. At least my Nikkor lenses had 4 or 5 . Point being, unquestionably HCB was not walking the streets stressing about focus. But today we are stuck with the autofocus speed of a particular piece, fast or slow. I think this camera has strong appeal, I'm wrestling over the cost for a fixed 35mm lens. Zeiss lenses combined with Sony software offer a camera that can compete very strongly with other major brands.

0 upvotes
Paul Richman
By Paul Richman (7 months ago)

The Leica comparison in the Introduction is dated. Leica now offers the X Vario at basically the same price point, but with a zoom. I prefer it, from the little testing and comparing I've done.

0 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (6 months ago)

Is "it" the Sony or the Leica?

1 upvote
avronaut
By avronaut (6 months ago)

@ mcshan:

It is a Leica with APS-C sensor and slow lens (F 3.5 - 6.4).

0 upvotes
Rooru S
By Rooru S (6 months ago)

mmmmm Leica with APS-C, slow lens, yes a zoom, but proturdes more than the Sony-Zeiss 35mm F2 Fullframe lens. And let remember again...Fullframe.

0 upvotes
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

f 3.5 to 6.4 ? SLOW isn't even the word :(

0 upvotes
Marksphoto
By Marksphoto (7 months ago)

why would a working pro consider this camera when they can get a nikon D3100 + a 35mm 1.8 lens for about $500, which will practically do the same thing for a fraction of the cost and still have the option of taking the lens off. And no, Sony is not a better brand than Nikon as far as cameras go and hopefully never will be in my lifetime because most photographers own Canon or Nikon lenses which makes Sony practically on the island of their own. I can't even put my canon flash on this thing so why would I even consider this as my 2nd camera?

It's not like the rx1 will fit into my pocket, I still have to hang it around my neck which makes this camera irrelevant in my opinion as far as compacts go...

This camera is aimed at a rich audience but then again if you have an RX1 and not a Leica M9 than you are not very rich, are you?

Who is the target market here?

I am off to look at Canon S120, that's my next camera I will be buying for my wife to take great family photos and videos.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 8 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Mike99999
By Mike99999 (6 months ago)

A D3100 with 35mm f/1.8 does NOT do the same thing. The Nikon is a 50mm f/2.8 equivalent. To get the equivalent from Nikon you would have to buy a D3100 plus the $2000 Nikon 24mm f/1.4. THAT would be the equivalent of 35mm f/2 on full frame.

That Nikon setup might be marginally cheaper, but is ridiculous in size and balance.

And Zeiss makes much better glass than Nikon. The 35mm f/1.8 from Nikon is a joke of a lens.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
3 upvotes
harold1968
By harold1968 (6 months ago)

There is no comparison
Firstly the IQ of this thing is the best there is in the 35mm FF space. That includes dynamic range, ISO performance, colour, etc.
Secondly it is quite small.
Thirdly the shutter is silent, as compared to the DSLR you mention
This really is the best there is. If you don't want, don't need, or can't afford, he best, well that is something else.

1 upvote
Raonisk
By Raonisk (6 months ago)

Maybe we are not talking about the same camera.. RX1 is a full frame camera....more light enters its sensor, the overall picture quality is far superior in many ways. Nikon D3100 is not even close or comparable to this RX1. Take a look at the image comparisons, it beats out many high end cameras. I'm not going into that thing about which brand is the best, but specifically in this case, Sony has beaten the heck out of any other camera with similar size and class.

1 upvote
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

Thanks Guys :) When I read the post I got a little annoyed until I scrolled down. I know we're supposed to be "polite" here & I respect that, but there's a lot of misinformation floating around too, and some of it comes from lack of depth in understanding. For laughs, ref my post above re "depth of focus". Beyond all the hype, one issue at point here is still the theoretical differences between SLR & rangefinder. Leica of course started the rangefinder market (for all practical purposes @ least) and even Nikon was first a rangefinder. Even as a stringer for Nat Geo, David Allen Harvey used Leicas for years. It's a niche, for sure, but what a sweet corner to duck into occasionally. Unquestionably there will be working pro's who will want this camera. As a non-pro I'm wrestling between emotion and intellect. But you folks are dead on.

0 upvotes
Gabriel Yeo
By Gabriel Yeo (7 months ago)

$4000 for this fixed-lens....This has to be the biggest joke of the year.
At that price, I can buy a real full-frame slr.

1 upvote
shawnfb
By shawnfb (7 months ago)

when you own one you can comment, I have a 5d3, Fuji xpro1, and this Rx1R.. guess which one is most portable, shoots the best Raw images, and is the most fun to use?

2 upvotes
mcshan
By mcshan (6 months ago)

You can also lug around a big camera.

0 upvotes
mtsporty
By mtsporty (4 months ago)

Well, I don't know what the price was when this thread started but it's about $2800 USD today. And of course you can buy a full frame DSLR for $4000, probably just a bit less, but you're talking apples and oranges. The RX1 is essentially a rangefinder style camera, hence the comparisons to the M8 and M9's. Leica now makes an X series, which would actually be a much more accurate comparison to this, & close in price. Granted in today's modern photography the comparison is not 100% accurate, but it's close enough to make a point. This camera is going to have a very strong appeal to shooters-pro or non-who might own or consider a Leica M or X. I think you have to start with an understanding of those products & their history.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
0 upvotes
UnitedNations
By UnitedNations (8 months ago)

The JPEG quality rating is below that of even the Fuji x100, & significantly worse than the Fuji x-E1.
So I am not sure How dpreview can say that the the JPEG is one of RX1's pros?

0 upvotes
Paul Farace
By Paul Farace (8 months ago)

This is the Erminox of the 21st century! Someday tyros will handle one in a camera show and wonder how a few folks could spend that kind of money for a bauble.

0 upvotes
Under The Sun
By Under The Sun (1 month ago)

I think you are missing the white elephant in the room: Leica

0 upvotes
Greg Gebhardt
By Greg Gebhardt (8 months ago)

The best of the best for less than the cost of a medium cost Lecia lens!

1 upvote
harold1968
By harold1968 (6 months ago)

Indeed, the same price as a summicron 35mm lens only. Actually I think it is cheaper now

0 upvotes
Total comments: 25