Film versus DSLR dynamic range

Started Jul 24, 2007 | Discussions
Tony Terranova Regular Member • Posts: 271
Please, let me correct your post.

PIXSurgeon chanted:

...with instruments you do not even know how to play... Just light up

a F-candle, WATCH the flame, and pray to God for some enlightment...

just to discover that you will need around 10 to 11 EVs to capture

the whole thing, appropriately.

Only then, you will get the answer you are seeking...

PIXSurgeon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,009
Tony, I have an idea...

...Why don't we JOIN forces?

Listen, you focus on your "chanting", your musical spirituality, your metaphoric writing skills, etc., and let PIX handle the dirty work, the stuff that is clearly beyond your reach.

For example, do you want me to help you with this pure F-non-sense? http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1000&message=24050075

Let me know. I am lending you a generous hand, here!

8-)))

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Jay Turberville Forum Pro • Posts: 12,917
Hey - a post that actually makes sense ...

There is some slight non-linearity in real life in the darkest
shadows which is probably due to lens flare. That probably explains
why we can actually reach and even exceed a tiny bit the theoretical
DR limits. You can see that slight non-linearity in this Imatest
graph. It is interesting on its own merits, but I don't think it has
much relevance to practical photography with most cameras. Note the
otherwise linear response.

...and to demonstrate the value/importance of the equipment, here you
go (notice the improved non-linearity at the top-bottom, and, most
importantly, the MASSIVELY improved signal-to-noise ratios acrross
the tonal band, when compared to yours, which, in all fairness, I do
not know WTF you got such limited ratios):

Its an E-330 with half the physical sensor area. So your test shows about what I'd expect when you compare a 1D-MII to an E-330. You get about one full stop more usable DR out of it.

I think the problem here is that you seem to think the discussion was about just the 1D-MII. It wasn't. The original poster was talking about DR of DSLRs in general. The 1D-MII is was the example that he pointed to, but Roger Clark has tested other cameras, and the question wasn't really about the 1D-MII.

A further part of the discussion was Roger Clark's measurments of dynamic range. As I showed in another post, he measures a lot of cameras as having about 11 stops of dynamic range. The problem with that is he isn't directly saying much about the noise levels and that's a very important issue. You can't just look at the total dynamic range and think you'd got a handle on what the sensor can deliver. 11 stops from an S70? Sure. But only about 8-9 stops are going to be photographically usefu.

Now lets apply my "rules of thumb" to your Imatest results. My observation is that the 0.25 threshold gives you nice clean images with no real discernable noise. Just about anybody is happy with noise at that threshold. The 0.50 threshold still has lots of useful image detail, but it is noiser and some people might start getting picky about it. I generally don't, since these tones are in the darker shadows. If you have to reach into the 1.0 noise level, lots of people will tend to find the noise levels too high. Your Imatest shows a "--" there. I'm not sure what that indicates. I think it indicates that you never get to a 1.0 noise level? Either way, looking at the Imatest you posted I'd conclude the following:

That camera gets nine stops of DR without breaking a sweat. It gets 10 stops pretty easily with little to complain about with noise. The 11th stop of DR is more likely to be a problem, but that problem may have more to do with tonal steps than with noise. But if there is some nonlinearity at work, then maybe the tonal problems aren't as bad as one might assume based on a perfectly linear sensor response. I'd like to see the Imatest on the raw file to see how linear the response is in the shadows.

(and the above is already after TRC's applied, and with basically NO
noise-reduction!) NO wonder, now, what you are complaining about
"shadows"... DUDE, you need A NEW CAM! 8-))

I'm not complaining about shadows. I know I have between 8-9 stops of DR. I can live with that pretty easily. I'm pointing out that when Imatest and Roger Clark measure a camera as having 11 stops of total DR, that number can easily be an overestimation of the actual practical amount of DR that is really available. You really must look at the DR at particular noise levels to get a good idea of what a camera can really do for you.

According to Clark's testing, a 7Mp 1/1.8" sensor has 11 stops of DR and your 1D-MII only has half a stop more DR. Imatest agrees and give 11.2 stops from my C7070 using the same sensor. So while 11 stops is probably technically correct, it doesn't tell us much about the quite important noise levels we'll find as we dive into those 11 stops. Just about any DSLR will test as having 11 stops or slightly more of total DR. But few will actually be able to deliver that many stops of usable image detail. That, in a nutshell, is my point.

Based on what I've seen, the E-330 is pretty typical of most DSLRs. The 1D-MII is pretty atypical. If you need a lot of DR, then cameras like the 1D series, the 1DS series and the FujiFilm Pro series are the cameras of choice (sorry if I've left some others out). Most of the other DSLRs simply don't do as well. And you can see why pretty easily by looking at the DR versus noise levels in Imatest results. You can get a hint about the the noise issue by looking at how much better the D200 and 1D-MII do at higher ISOs in this chart, but you have to have some understanding of what's going on not to be fooled by the similar DR meaurements of the three cameras in the ISO 50-100 range.

from: http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/digital.sensor.performance.summary/index.html

Hopefully that clears things up for you and helps some of the lurkers understand the issues a bit better. Technical testing isn't bad and doesn't give us bogus results. But you have to understand and apply the results correctly. Doing good comparisons to film DR is a problem since you equating noise levels could be tough - especially if you consider the added problems of scanning or other measurement techniques. It is harder to get good objective results with film than with digital.

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PIXSurgeon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,009
Well... Guess what?

Jay Turberville wrote:

You can't just look at the total
dynamic range and think you'd got a handle on what the sensor can
deliver. 11 stops from an S70? Sure. But only about 8-9 stops are
going to be photographically usefu.

...You are F-correct, here. No questions asked. In fact, had we started this conversation here , we would have "warped" space&time and traveled to our destination point in a fraction of the time, indeed.

The very same concept that you clearly and correctly point out above (e.g. non-linear signal-to-noise ratio accross tonal band), is precisely what MANY, MANY folks here do not quite get, yet (especially old-timers that have not fully grasped "digital workflowing").

And this is where the PERFORMANCE of the cam's matrix and pipeline become the first-and-final step on your ladder, literally.

As of today, I have encountered fairly limited instances where the 1D MarkII N has ran out of gas, in the DR department. And, for those get-it-no-matter-what" situations, we have other (and powerful) tricks under its hood, to get the scene's DR captured.

This also explains, why I have been able to get (consistently), anything between 10.0 and 11.0 f/stops of DR, systematically , consistently and predictably from our 1D2 (former) and 1D2N (today), while some others have had to moan-and-cry, forever, not really knowing how to do it because they consider themselves "great photographers".

8-)

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Tony Terranova Regular Member • Posts: 271
You mean..

PIXSurgeon wrote:

...Why don't we JOIN forces?

You mean like Rocky and Bullwinkle?

Listen, you focus on your "chanting", your musical spirituality, your
metaphoric writing skills, etc., and let PIX handle the dirty work,
the stuff that is clearly beyond your reach.

For example, do you want me to help you with this pure F-non-sense?
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1000&message=24050075

Let me know. I am lending you a generous hand, here!

Okay, as long as I can be Bullwinkle. There's a thread in the olympus forum right now named "Ouch what a surprise" that needs our attention.

PIXSurgeon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,009
Well...

Tony Terranova wrote:

Okay, as long as I can be Bullwinkle. There's a thread in the olympus
forum right now named "Ouch what a surprise" that needs our attention.

...I just saw it. IT IS SICK! I was like WTF , puking and everything...

Housekeeping on its way...

8-)))

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mcd3 Regular Member • Posts: 225
Digital dynamic range is a joke next to film. (nt)

No Text

PIXSurgeon Veteran Member • Posts: 4,009
Your post is useless. (nt)

8-)

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The Davinator
The Davinator Forum Pro • Posts: 22,401
Naw....

....useless is claiming digital's superiority over film....when you haven't test film.

That....is useless.

LOL

 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
sergey1968 Senior Member • Posts: 1,068
I am as far from film bashing as it gets

and the proof is here:
http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/read.asp?forum=1032&message=22806662

but from my experience the "dynamic range" - that is ability to get details both in shadows and highlights - of film is much lower than that of digital capture. It's true both for slide and negative film. I do own Nikon 9000 scanner and it is obvious for me that resolution of scanned medium format film - especially when Mamiya 7 is used - is much much higher than that of 5D, 1Ds II etc - but digital capture just kills film in tonal range.

This is the reason why 6MP digital murdered MF film in mass market applications such as portrait and wedding. The problem with digital is that not many have skill and taste of right postprocessing. If they had film would die even faster then it does.

That said, when presented unique shooting opportunity - once-in-a-lifetime sunrise, unique aerial view etc - I would prefer to have my Mamiya 7 with me. But this is only because 39MP back is beyond my price range

Jay Turberville Forum Pro • Posts: 12,917
Re: Well... Guess what?

You can't just look at the total
dynamic range and think you'd got a handle on what the sensor can
deliver. 11 stops from an S70? Sure. But only about 8-9 stops are
going to be photographically usefu.

...You are F-correct, here. No questions asked. In fact, had we
started this conversation here , we would have "warped" space&time
and traveled to our destination point in a fraction of the time,
indeed.

But that is where I started.

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pianopix Regular Member • Posts: 478
Re: Film versus DSLR dynamic range

Lictor offers a very informed and informative reply to this perennial question. Thanks!
Lee

Pierre Sottas Contributing Member • Posts: 787
Re: Bit depth and dynamic range...

Jay Turberville wrote:

Sure. It is possible. But show me one manufacturer who is doing
that when they record their raw data.

all CMOS sensors are able to do that during pre-amplification before AD conversion at the price of loosing some resolution (-> an intelligent form of "binning"). I know that recent Canon CMOS sensors have this property, and Kodak has recently filled a patent with a similar idea:
http://www.wipo.int/pctdb/en/wo.jsp?IA=WO2006130518&wo=2006130518&DISPLAY=DESC

There is some slight non-linearity in real life in the darkest
shadows which is probably due to lens flare. That probably explains
why we can actually reach and even exceed a tiny bit the theoretical
DR limits. You can see that slight non-linearity in this Imatest
graph. It is interesting on its own merits, but I don't think it has
much relevance to practical photography with most cameras. Note the
otherwise linear response.

You suggest that one cannot exceed 12 stops because of the linear response. This is false. Mario is right on this point. You can have an output very close to linear but some non-linearities applied before AD conversion. Read the graph of the 1DMkII: the maximum value is not achieved at the lowest (basal) ISO value but one-two stops higher. This is because of the 2-steps amplification (one before AD conversion at the pixel level and the second (linear) after AD conversion). As a result, I would not be surprised to see that the 1DMkII has slightly less resolution at its basal ISO settings.

Pierre

olstrup Veteran Member • Posts: 3,731
That depends very much.....

Films vary very much in dynamic range. Slide film has a narrow range, colour negative film a broader range. B&W film varies as well. Fast film has a broader range, slow films a narrower range. "Lith" film has an extremely narrow range. Development also influences the range. Push devolopment (much used with say Tri-X) gives higher contrast and narrower range, whereas short development times gives a broader range. So it makes no sense to talk about just "film".

A digression: Ansel Adams "Zone System" was a way to systemizise the relationship between exposure and development of B&W films so you could tailor the exposure and development to you needs for the final print before you even pressed the shutter. Though I learned about the Zone System while using B&W film I find knowledge about it very useful also in digital photogtaphy. You get a very good feel for what the h#@% is going on with that light, and it takes a lot of guesswork ouf of photographing. And fiddling with the curves tool in PS is not so different from fiddling with developer dilutions, temperature and development times in the darkroom.

olstrup Veteran Member • Posts: 3,731
..... and when I think about it....

.... I scanned some old Tri-X negatives and found that I could reveal details in the sky that was all "blown out" when the negative was printed in the enlarger, so the may be even more range hidden in those films than I ever knew. And yes, I know, those datil might also have been brought out if I had taken the trouble to "burn in" the sky while copying.

Harry Lime Regular Member • Posts: 264
Re: Correct

Exactly. You are dead on.

HL

Dave Luttmann wrote:

Jay, you're completely correct.

First off, with a 12 bit sensor, you cannot physically discern more
than 11 stops.....it'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 range....in 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.

Harry Lime Regular Member • Posts: 264
Re: LoOoOoL!!!

Weren't you banned from this forum at one point for being an annoyance?

HL

PIXSurgeon wrote:

Benedict Slotte wrote:

You are right. PixSurgeon just has this obsession to desperately and
bombastically keep stomping other people's claims to death until
nothing but a pool of blood on the ground remains, as soon as he
finds the slightest reason to do so.

...Now, THAT was funny, Benedict... Putting aside the
PIXman-custome... boy! I did not know you have been feeling like
that, since our last "exchange"... 8-)))

In any case, you have NO IDEA how much this one got me cuckling...

Now, back to my custome, and let's see how can keep up with the
"bloody" pressure!

dt8155 Regular Member • Posts: 143
That's because they are FANBOYS

PIXSurgeon wrote:

Tony Terranova wrote:

A poet, and a hypocritical one at that.

...a single thought from you, in anything I have read so far...
just babbling ... and, on top of that, NOT A SINGLE F-image* ,
yet! Not from Dave, not from you...

You're not going to get an image from anyone who believes digital and film are teams in a contest, and film must win everything.

Might as well give up. Leave them to their fantoys.

dt8155 Regular Member • Posts: 143
Re: Naw....

Dave Luttmann wrote:

....useless is claiming digital's superiority over film....when you...

...are dealing with fanboys who think photography is a game and their team needs to win.

uk102 Senior Member • Posts: 1,286
Re: And...

These are very pretty graphs that show DSLR’s as having huge DR. What is puzzling me is the following.

On my film (not slide) camera I can take a photo and the sky looks lovely and I can have sky in my all photo’s without thinking. I meter for the foreground and the foreground looks lovely so does the sky.

On my DSLR doing the same with .jpg and yes the sky nearly always blows out if the foreground is correctly exposed. Therefore I use RAW and thing are better but not perfect.

On this basis I know my slide film has 5 stops of DR when working with the camera meter. Yes the sky burners out just like shooting jpg. I can therefore conclude that slide and .jpg have about the same DR (5 stops).

I work with RAW images and can gain some sky detail, but not all, so theRAW files has a great DR than jpg. I can get the sky detail back if I use HDR, and the standard method is to Bracket the shots -2, 0, +2 . Comp. I can therefore compare the RAW files and what this appear to tell me is that a RAW files has around 7-8 stops of detail.

I think we can all test this for ourselves, but I spent my years in the dark room developing film and using an enlarge which as anyone who develop film means you get to understand of the exact DR of films & print papers. From what I have found slide film is about 5 stop, colour film 11 stop (depend on brand) and some B&W up to 19 stops.

...I DID NOT ask for Stouffer wedges (I already got them,
http://www.pbase.com/feharmat/image/49870707/original , long time ago
).

We are working under Dave's "REAL WORLD" images principle, and I have
asked him to step-up to the plate and send me FILM IMAGES, so I can
scan them and process them, using my skills and tools, and post the
results, here.

The problem with "real world images" is that they have to be metered
carefully beforehand if they are going to be used to prove a certain
level of DR. That's the problem with your candle image. We have no
idea what the brightness values were. So we don't know what dynamic
range was captured. And I really don't care what you think "we" are
working under. And I'm working under any reasonable approach that
can demonstrate actual dynamic range. That can be a "real world"
image or any number of reasonable test images or exposure sequences.

Anyway, the image below demonstrates my point. It is a pair of nice
boring pictures of a Stouffers step wedge. For those who don't know,
each step represents a 1/3 stop exposure difference. Two strips are
shown. Each is from the same raw file. The bottom one is a a
"normal" developement that shows slightly more than 8 stops worth of
steps and hence slightly mroe than 8 stops of DR. The darker tones
don't show much visible noise. This is the 8 stops or so of DR that
I say is comfortably achieved by most DSLRs.

The wedge above that one has been processed to bring the values
beyond 8 stops into a useful range. On this image, you can make out
steps that go as far as the 11th stop. But there is a lot of noise
present in these last two stops. So the range of 11 stops is there,
but the question that each photographer has to answer for themself is
how useful those last extra stops of DR are? For me, they aren't
usually very useful. I'm pretty comfortable pushing into 9 stops,
and maybe even 10 in an pinch. - depending on final enlargement size
and subject matter. I have no hesitation saying that this camera
(E-330) easily has 8 stops of DR. But even though I can measure
more, those extra stops don't represent a lot of useful image detail.

http://www.jayandwanda.com/photography/E-330/TT231651_iso100_MaxDR.jpg

Now a camera with a larger pixel pitch and and hence typically
greater well capacity will go into the the last three stops of DR
more comfortably. But that isn't true of the vast majority of DSLRS.
And further, Roger Clark says that even a 7Mp 1/1.8" sensor has 11
stops of DR. And while that that may be true technically, it isn't a
good practical preditor of what you can expect when you take
pictures. The usable DR is a few stops less. And the typical 6-10Mp
sensor on an APS-C or 4/3" camera has a similar problem, just to a
lesser degree.

http://www.clarkvision.com/imagedetail/digital.sensor.performance.summary/index.html

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