The Usefulness of High DR

Started Feb 9, 2013 | Discussions thread
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Jeffery1987 Regular Member • Posts: 246
The Usefulness of High DR

I’ve been scouring these forums for a long time for technical information and tips, but over the years I noticed there are much misinformation or lack of it here. Just want to share some experience over the issue of dynamic range. There is a perfectly good reason why certain photographers are forever requesting higher dynamic range and lower noise sensors. However there are also people here saying that the current amount of DR is good enough (mainly the Canon crowd let’s be honest). Also there’s also the argument that massive shadowing pulling is for beginners because you should nail the exposure in-camera.

Well here’s a typical example why more DR and lower noise is always welcome. Below are two shots taken in during the day when the sun was out, but the lighting condition wasn’t exactly straight forward. Take a look at the 1st shot, the DR of the scene is so wide that there’s no such thing as a perfect exposure here. Either way you lose some highlights or shadows. I left the camera to decide the exposure since D300 has very balanced metering. The shot was then heavily post produced.

Post processed results


Now take a look at the shadows, there is a lot of noise. Also, I spent a lot of time just trying to create a smooth transition between the tones. This is where the high DR and recovery abilities of the D800 would have came in handy and I wouldn’t had to spent so much time trying to balance the tones. Look at the original crop, it's not the shadows were clipped but it's just noisy when you try to lift it. Higher DR really means more data in the extreme ends of the spectrum (ie. less noise in shadows), that's why they are useful in situations like this.

This second image is actually a real HDR from 5 exposures (why in the hell Nikon thinks pro cameras only need 1 stop interval for bracketing is beyond me). Again, another high DR scene.

Looking at the shadows again, there is still quite a bit of noise. Note this was taking handheld without a tripod so the results are a bit soft and there’s ghosting at the bottom right corner from movement. I believe with something like the D800 a single shot HDR would have been possible. The difference would be slightly less tonal range, and same amount of noise but the advantage being possibly sharper results with no ghosting.

Hopefully people will understand why there's always a need for higher DR. For those of us that are forever seeking interesting lighting, shadow will always be a part of that. This is why an extra stop or two worth of DR and noise performance won't hurt.

Thanks for reading


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