Film versus DSLR dynamic range

Started Jul 24, 2007 | Discussions thread
The Davinator
The Davinator Forum Pro • Posts: 22,077

Jay, you're completely correct.

First off, with a 12 bit sensor, you cannot physically discern more than 11's impossible.....period.....end of story. With a 12 bit system, the 11th stop has only 2 tonal values....on and off. That is hardly of any use. In fact, even the 8th stop only has 16 tonal values assigned, thus, of little, limited value.

Compared to slide film, DSLRs have decent dynamic range. I have little problem getting 10 to 11 stops from color neg film and a 16 bit 16X multi scan from Fuji ProS 160 or the old NPS 160. I really wish people would stop quoting that laughable film test of Clarkes where he used Kodak 200 consumer grade garbage....known for poor color rendition and dynamic range.

With B&W it's a different story altogether. I have routinely obtained 14 stops with Tri-X using dilute developer solutions and stand development.

The problem with digital capture in this respect is its linearity. Films have a more gentle rolloff of highlights and shadows due to their response curves at the toe and shoulder. It would require some nasty overexposure to blow out Tri-X or FP4 compared to a DSLR.

The only people who think DSLRs exceed film in dynamic range are those who hang out in a lab using Imatest. In the real world, their tests fall flat. I can blather on about lab results for Tri-X that prove 22 stops of dynamic the real world, it's nowhere near that.....much in the same way that in the real world, 12bit DSLRs are nowhere near 11 to 12 stops.

The wedding photographers I know all realise this through experience.....not hiding in a lab behind Imatest results.

 The Davinator's gear list:The Davinator's gear list
Canon EOS D30 Canon EOS 10D Nikon D2X Fujifilm X-Pro1 Fujifilm X-T1 +17 more
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