A D300 DR Challenge

Started Oct 14, 2010 | Discussions thread
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Tony Beach Forum Pro • Posts: 11,967
A D300 DR Challenge

This is a continuation of a discussion begun in another thread. I thought it would be interesting to explore the question of how to extract the most DR out of the D300, so I am offering an NEF file here: http://photos.imageevent.com/tonybeach/mypicturesfolder/sharing/_3A40964.NEF Since I do not want to force people to open a 1.5 MB file when they open this thread, I'm including some crops I made from the above file in the reply immediately below this one.

In order to put some context to this thread as it relates to the previous discussion that I left off here: http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1039&message=36618725 I would like to start this thread out by replying to what was written in that thread (or you can just skip that and offer up your best effort at extracting the shadow detail from the file above).

sem wrote:

Did you notice the example?

[See the link above to this post.]

First what is missing here is an NX Capture conversion of the file. Second, we do not have much to go on in determining just how useful the recovered detail is, or what was even captured (or not) in the original RAW file.

Tony Beach wrote:

sem wrote:

At base ISO, with careful exposure, one surely can capture more practically useful DR than the Nikon conversion is willing to chew at once.

From my experience, the DR of the D300 starts to be less than useful around 7 stops (some are more critical, and some are less critical). It's a little more than what I get from my D200 and noticeably less than I get from my A850. Regardless of what RAW converter I use, what I see past 7 stops is degraded resolution and noisy and near-monochromatic tonality.

Well, depends on your quality standards. Of course multiple AEB exposures will produce a better result than squeezing the most out of one NEF using pseudo-HDR.

Flash-fill or reflectors can also help, particularly when the subject you are shooting is nearby. As for my standards, my first reply in this thread will demonstrate what I'm referring to.

First, I'm talking about Nikon's conversion of the RAW data, and there is a difference between what can be accomplished in NX and what can be accomplished in the camera. On that I'm 100% in agreement with you.

Also NX conversion is limited in DR. NX is the best at improvisation with partially blown highlights, but only as long as you set EC low enough (so the shadows are blown).

Regardless of what RAW converter you use, blowing highlights leads to unrecoverable colors. One solution I sometimes use is to do my own improvising by taking what is essentially a white area and burning the channels individually to recreate a believable color there.

But if you have a 10+ stop non-blown NEF, the NX conversion will be blown at least at one end no matter how low you set contrast etc. It seems that best results in harsh light do not rank highly on Nikon's list priorites - they care more for providing good results in good light, that's all.

First, you are not going to pull 10 stops of DR out a D300 NEF no matter how hard you try, at least not what I would consider 10 usable stops. Second, even with HDR, when you start to overexpose large areas of the shot, you get so much flare in the shadow areas that the results there are also unusable.

Second, one has to wonder about those ludicrous DR numbers in DPR's reviews. My guess is that the settings used to attain those numbers would make for a dreadful photograph.

They operate with the term "useful DR" but they take any stop, noisy or not. Their DR score of the D90 is nearly flat line 8EV over all ISO values; while those seven-and-a-half stops are almost clean at ISO 100, they are miserably noisy at ISO 6400.

Again, I do not think the seventh (or even the sixth) stop of DR is " almost clean." Maybe you can clean it up with some NR and pump it full of saturation to make it look acceptable, but you are dealing with extremely compromised data there.

I haven't tested the latest version of ACR, but the version in LR2 and CS3 exhibit poor resolution compared to NX.

Well, everybody seems to appreciate the improvement. I've only test-driven LR3b. It seems to work fine, aside for some hue twists to gray with recovery (I hear solvable with special profiles). The best thing is that working with NEFs isn't as much hassle as with NX.

I have offered a D300 NEF file that has just over 6 stops of DR in it, and I look forward to seeing what anyone here can do with it with any RAW converter to produce a 100% crop that looks remotely as good as the one I show in the reply below which was taken at a more optimal EV.

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