Subtle tonality

Started Jun 12, 2011 | Discussions
nick_webster Veteran Member • Posts: 7,623
Subtle tonality

Before anything else let me make it clear that I'm not trying to troll or otherwise upset people in this forum.

One of the advantages I read about Foveon sensors is their subtle tonality, so whilst I'm having a quiet day at work I was looking through some photos I have here that I use as desktop wallpaper. I came across this one and to me it has great sublety in it's colour transitions. I'm struggling to see how it could be bettered. It might not be sharp at the pixel level as a Sigma shot would be but at normal viewing distances I don't think I'd see any difference.

Full size is in my gallery - use the "original" link at the top of the photo to download full size if you wish - it's a 2.8MB file.

Is it just reds where Foveon images better their Bayer equivalents ? Do you think my shot is just rubbish ? Any thoughts welcome, and if you have some images to demonstrate what you think so much the better,


PS Just noticed the EXIF is stripped - Oly RAW software does that. It was taken with an E-3 and either a Tamron or Tokina 90mm macro at about f5.6/8, handheld. Probably ISO 100 or 200. If anyone is interested I can let you know some details later - won't show lens data as it was an adapted MF lens.

allendelasaguas Regular Member • Posts: 396
Re: Subtle tonality

Hi there.

I am not a great fan of shooting flowers but, you asked for samples of Foveon subtle tonalities, so here you have one similar to yours.
Sigma SD14, 18-200 OS


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Craig Philips Regular Member • Posts: 220
Re: Subtle tonality

Rick, here's a foveon image for you to compare with your's.

regards, Craig

petr marek Regular Member • Posts: 179
Re: Subtle tonality

The main aspect of Foveon is wide rich tonality and natural contrast. So if you open X3F file in Lightroom and set all parameters to zeroed, the image looks natural without stretching it from flat raw. If you do this with RAW from typical Bayer chip camera, the image is flat, low contrast, mainly midtones, weak colours. You have to add brightness and contrast, modify contrast curve to darks and highlights. Than the image looks good, but tonal range stays the same, it´s just stretched, skipping some tonal transitions.
Here I posted some characteristic Foveon photos:

maxotics Regular Member • Posts: 320
took these in 5 minutes (just now), RAW to JPEG, not processing

I'm no gardener or photographer and no SIGMA loyalist. My experience has been, as others have said, that the SIGMA cameras take photos as close to real as possible (needing minimal post-processing). So when I read your post I went out and took these photos and converted them--all within 10 minutes.

Photos taken with SD15 and 70mm lens. Weather is very late afternoon, cloudy, having rained.

Hope you enjoy!

larryj Forum Pro • Posts: 10,065
Re: Subtle tonality

Here is oneof mine that shows rich tonality in a Bird of Paradise flower. SD14 and 50 mm F:2.8 Macro lens.

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Tom Schum
Tom Schum Veteran Member • Posts: 7,133
Re: Subtle tonality

nick_webster wrote:

Is it just reds where Foveon images better their Bayer equivalents ? Do you think my shot is just rubbish ? Any thoughts welcome, and if you have some images to demonstrate what you think so much the better,

Thanks for posting! I also wonder how well Bayer photos really stack up against Foveon, and your post gave me the obvious idea to simply check other DPR forums, download originals, and see what I can see.

Your image looked a little dull to me (a little dark, a little soft, and a little bit flat).

So I downloaded your original and worked on it a little in Photoshop Elements 9 to "adjust" it to fit my preferences a little better:

I didn't do much to it:

First I went to adjust lighting: levels: and reduced the max slider to where the end of the image info is. This gave the image a little more snap in my eyes.

Then I sharpened, then I resized to 1500x1250, then I adjusted sharpness +20% for 0.5 pixel radius.

Really, it looks pretty good to me at this point. All this is pretty subjective of course. You might not like it anywhere near as much as you like your original, and for some very good reasons too.

Like many, I prefer "the nice bright colors" (Digital Kodachrome), and Foveon seems to come closest. I've gotten very good results with Bayer sensors too, for example on my Canon 30D a couple years ago:

I'm not really able to put my finger on exactly why I like Foveon better. It's sort of a visceral thing with me. Most likely it makes no sense at all.
Finally here is a recent thread full of great Foveon flower shots:
Tom Schum

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OP nick_webster Veteran Member • Posts: 7,623
Thanks to all who replied,

Sorry I didn't reply earlier but we had a situation come up at work that took me away from a computer and then when I got home it was time for bed.

Only Tom Schum got the pint of my post but thanks to the rest for posting your images. I was looking to see if people thought there was something missing from my image that only a Foveon camera could reproduce, and if so to tell me what that was.

For Tom,

The original I posted hadn't been optimised, I just processed the RAW with defaults as I was just going to be using it for computer wallpaper. If I was printing it I'm not sure I'd have gone as far as you but that's just personal taste I actually like that slight softness sometimes as it can convey a mood of tranquillity that a sharper image doesn't.

Thanks for your thoughts,


Ed_S Veteran Member • Posts: 8,078
Re: Subtle tonality


First off, nowadays one doesn't have to try hard to "upset" folks on this forum, regardless it seems of whether you're "for 'em" (Sigma) or "again 'em".

I think the biggest "difference" (and this is necessarily subjective absent comparably shot images Foveon and CFA of similar resolution with similar lens, etc.) may be the overall color rendering coupled with color edge sharpness. The ability to capture the subtle tonality you introduced alongside the crispness at color transitions. Or so it seems to me.


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