D300 White Balance - Gray Card vs White Card vs Auto vs Expodisk

Started May 4, 2008 | Discussions thread
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PhotoArtKC Senior Member • Posts: 1,585
D300 White Balance - Gray Card vs White Card vs Auto vs Expodisk

I've seen a lot of threads about using things to measure a custom white balance lately and wanted to see for myself if their is a REAL difference between the most common methods.

Camera: D300
Lens: 85mm 1.4
AP mode

Lighting: 2x 40w standard florescent tube, non-daylight balanced. (in my kitchen)

My handy Digital Camera Magazine test card w/ QPCard color test attached (to compare color rendering)
Test 1: Standard Gray Card
Test 2: Standard White Card
Test 3: Auto WB
Test 4: Expodisk

I set the white balance using the standard gray card, took a properly exposed shot of the test card in front of my bright yellow espresso machine using what would normally be considered bad lighting conditions. The gray card gives what I feel is the best results. The white areas on the QPCard are a true white (compared to the Digital Camera card which is very slightly yellow) and when I sampled the JPEG right out of the camera in Photoshop, it is almost perfectly white based on RGB values.

The white card gives very good results as well. Though I look at the samples in Photoshop and the white areas are slightly too blue and the color swatches are also more blue. (In most cases this isn't far enough from normal to be a big deal but if extreme color accuracy is required it may skew the output.)

With Auto WB selected, the color is very poor. In normal conditions such as daylight or when using a flash it may be OK but it seems in all other conditions it may prove to skew color quite bad. And because it can vary from shot to shot, your color may be prone to shifting even though the lighting hasn't.

Though i've had it for quite a long time, I rarely get it out anymore. But for the sake of testing, I figured I would give it a try one more time. The Expodisk is pretty popular, though expensive and sometimes not easy to use properly. With the Expodisk, I was slightly suprised to see a slight cyan/green tone to the test shot. This gives me the least pleasing look of all since who wants their skin tones to look "dead".

Though I don't have a tri-tone card (white/grey/black) to test, I have been told those can confuse the sensor in the camera and cause abnormal results. If I did have one I would have included it in my tests for those curious.

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