Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

Started Jul 11, 2014 | Discussions
Hng Contributing Member • Posts: 645
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
2

Easy to see, clouds with M is 3D object, with Q no more.

MarkWW
MarkWW Contributing Member • Posts: 881
Re: Raw files for download .x3fs for download
3

Sam- Thanks for these!

I've reprocessed a couple of the images (my but SPP is slow) with the following settings:

  • Color mode Standard
  • Everything set to 0
  • Highlight Control set to 0 (neutralize)
  • Noise Reduction set to 0 (less)

Except for the Quattro I set Sharpness to 1, and for the Merrill I set Sharpness to 0.

A few people have said that the Quattro has all the detail of the Merrill and could be sharpened to show that detail, so I've decided to put that to the test.

There's no point in saying we can increase sharpness in photoshop, as we can do that with any photo from any camera, not just Foveons.

Saved as 8 bit TIFFs and opened in Lightroom to do a side-by-side comparison.

At the start of this, I'm on the fence about Quattro. Smoother than Merrill sounds good for portraits and I love the 50mm field of view, but why not go for the Sony a7 with a sharp 50 instead - I'll get more versatility, video, low light capability, etc. etc.

Merrill is on the left, Quattro is on the right.

It really looks like the microcontrast from the Merrill is simply not there with the Quattro.

Except when it is. The Quattro traffic light has more detail, but the sign behind it has more detail in the Merrill.

Quattro has more noise in the sky and the Merrill has more detail in the buildings - they have individual bricks whereas the Quattro has just flat walls.

Neither treats the red Amalgamated Bank sign well (I wish you got the parking sign in both the Merrill and Quattro) but the Quattro desaturates the red in the shadow less than the Merrill.

But again, you lose the texture in the gray areas above the sign, the Quttro washes detail that the Merrill picks up.

Straight lines pop more - look at the one way sign and the metal bands holding the sign & the stop light up. They pop more in the Quattro.

But look at the reflection of the building - the Merrill has bricks where the Quattro doesn't.

It seems to me that the Quattro is its own camera, distinct from the Merrill. Crisp lines, but without the grit. There is no way simply sharpening a Quattro image will give you the detail of the Merrill - look at the bricks, there is no detail there to sharpen.

What I want to see is how the Quattro handles people in two specific areas.

  1. Given how important red is for skin tone & how it's the blue/green channels that have all the nasty bits we try to eliminate, will the reduced red and green channel acutance make people look that much better, or will the overall Quattro smoothing that we see even in gray pavement make people's skin look shinier/smoother.
  2. Given the lack of detail I'm seeing in bricks, how will the Quattro handle hair? Will we be able to see each individual strand as we do with the Merrill or will they blend together, especially if someone has red hair (especially artificially colored red hair which will have a narrower frequency response than natural red hair).

But realistically, without infinite funds, I think the Sony A7 with a fast sharp 50 makes more sense to me than a Quattro, because the Quattro won't do high ISO, video or shallow depth of field, and I'd rather have those as options than the smooth crisp look of the Quattro. (and maybe pick up a cheap Merrill for when I want that super detailed look, but since I already have one - why do I need another?).

 MarkWW's gear list:MarkWW's gear list
Ricoh GR Digital III Ricoh GR Sigma DP3 Merrill Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Sigma DP2 Merrill +8 more
AdamT
AdamT Forum Pro • Posts: 60,843
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
1

My guess is also that it is Quattro and the CFA cameras that have it right and the higher micro contrast in Merrill is a special effect.

It`s called "Foveon-ness" and the original DPs as well as the SD9-14 have even more of it . Not counting the SD9 (which is probably too weird for the newbie Sigma fans here) the DP1 & 2 originals are the kings of this . Sigma cameras output looks more and more like bayer on each generation . looks like the colours are getting more "normal" with each generation too.

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Johan Borg Veteran Member • Posts: 3,001
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
1

AdamT wrote:

My guess is also that it is Quattro and the CFA cameras that have it right and the higher micro contrast in Merrill is a special effect.

It`s called "Foveon-ness" and the original DPs as well as the SD9-14 have even more of it . Not counting the SD9 (which is probably too weird for the newbie Sigma fans here) the DP1 & 2 originals are the kings of this .

I agree that the original DP2 is king, but having all three of them I would still say the Quattro feels more like a natural successor to the DP2 than DP2M ever did. Increasing per-pixel contrast while quadrupling the number of pixels was rather extreme IMHO.

Back to the question: Is it a special effect in Merrill?

Yes, according to SPP: Try to develop one of these X3F files in Monochrome mode and the result is pretty obvious, the texture detail of DP2M and DP2Q is more or less identical and the rendering very similar (I tried with SDIM267.X3F and SDIM0045.X3F). In color, the DP2Q retains the rendering of the B&W while the DP2Q applies a massive amount of micro contrast compared to its own B&W (as showed by the desaturated color mode image, last below).

The big difference is NOT between DP2Q and DP2M but between DP2M and itself depending on processing.

Quattro Monochrome

Merrill Monochrome

Merrill, developed in Color Mode with Saturation -2

DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,680
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
10

I agree that the Merrill contrast is a special effect, but it's one I like.  Looking at the quattro images, they don't have it, even if they are plenty detailed.

What this means to me is that there is a reason to buy a Merrill because it can do something no other can.  With the Quattro it is an alternative to standard cameras that doesn't have any special tricks.  So the question you then have to ask yourselves it why should I get one of these rather than a high rez bayer that can produce similar image quality in a much better camera.

It's a conundrum for sure.

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DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,680
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
1

Where the DP2m really shines is in the way it renders rough surfaces. For a shot of like a Mediterranean style old villa with cracked walls, peeling paint and lots of surface texture, the rendering is amazing, it really snaps into focus without excess sharpening.

I haven't found any evidence that the older Foveons can do this, nor Bayer cameras and I'm seeing the effect on small prints so it's not simple resolution, more extremely high contrast on small details that makes the detail easier to see.

It's a special effect for sure but it provides a large format film feel to surface texture. It's essentially what I look to shoot with my DP2Q.And even though the camera itself is woefully lacking and not much fun to use it makes it worth using for me.  I wouldn't say that about Foveons with a smooth, gentle rendering.

But then again, everyone has different favourite subjects and no camera is ideally suited for everything...

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DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,680
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
2

I can't agree with that Adam. I have a SD9 and a SD14 and their rendering is more like the Quattro than the Merrill. They look "smooth toned" even though they are very sharp. The Merrill looks hard, rough, gritty in comparison. This makes is very suited to rendering interest in what would otherwise be flat surfaces. It picks out surface texture.

And you can see this even in studio test shots. The D800 is clearly more detailed and higher resolution and looks better most of the time but when it comes to surface texture the DP2M especially enhances the feeling of that texture much like strong side lighting. It's a special effect for sure but it suits the abstract, details stuff I do.

Nothing will change that fact that the DP2M is not much fun to use though. If you are using the camera on its own you tend to forget about it and get used to the limitations of the Sigma but use it with another camera and its painful. My XE1 is no speed demon and I'm using it with legacy lenses but it is a pleasure to shoot with while the DP is like using a 19th century folder by comparison. Most of the time I have to guess what I'm photographing as I can't see the screen and the exposure is blind luck. Some times I try +3 to -3 stops of compensation and the live histogram looks exactly the same! It needed an integrated viewfinderreally badly and an exp comp dial would have helped as would an actual aperture ring around the lens.  There was no need to go all radical and weird with the Quattro design, just improve the little Merrill boxes.

Sigh, no one listens to me...

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DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,680
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

That's a really interesting finding. Good spot.

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"...while I am tempted to bludgeon you, I would rather have you come away with an improved understanding of how these sensors work" ---- Eric Fossum
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Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidmillier/

mike earussi Veteran Member • Posts: 8,755
Re: Raw files for download .x3fs for download

Mark, try a combination of ACR Clarity (100%-200%) coupled with large radius sharpening. You can never get the Q to ever truly equal the M, but this combo helps.

MarkWW wrote:

Sam- Thanks for these!

I've reprocessed a couple of the images (my but SPP is slow) with the following settings:

  • Color mode Standard
  • Everything set to 0
  • Highlight Control set to 0 (neutralize)
  • Noise Reduction set to 0 (less)

Except for the Quattro I set Sharpness to 1, and for the Merrill I set Sharpness to 0.

A few people have said that the Quattro has all the detail of the Merrill and could be sharpened to show that detail, so I've decided to put that to the test.

There's no point in saying we can increase sharpness in photoshop, as we can do that with any photo from any camera, not just Foveons.

Saved as 8 bit TIFFs and opened in Lightroom to do a side-by-side comparison.

At the start of this, I'm on the fence about Quattro. Smoother than Merrill sounds good for portraits and I love the 50mm field of view, but why not go for the Sony a7 with a sharp 50 instead - I'll get more versatility, video, low light capability, etc. etc.

Merrill is on the left, Quattro is on the right.

It really looks like the microcontrast from the Merrill is simply not there with the Quattro.

Except when it is. The Quattro traffic light has more detail, but the sign behind it has more detail in the Merrill.

Quattro has more noise in the sky and the Merrill has more detail in the buildings - they have individual bricks whereas the Quattro has just flat walls.

Neither treats the red Amalgamated Bank sign well (I wish you got the parking sign in both the Merrill and Quattro) but the Quattro desaturates the red in the shadow less than the Merrill.

But again, you lose the texture in the gray areas above the sign, the Quttro washes detail that the Merrill picks up.

Straight lines pop more - look at the one way sign and the metal bands holding the sign & the stop light up. They pop more in the Quattro.

But look at the reflection of the building - the Merrill has bricks where the Quattro doesn't.

It seems to me that the Quattro is its own camera, distinct from the Merrill. Crisp lines, but without the grit. There is no way simply sharpening a Quattro image will give you the detail of the Merrill - look at the bricks, there is no detail there to sharpen.

What I want to see is how the Quattro handles people in two specific areas.

  1. Given how important red is for skin tone & how it's the blue/green channels that have all the nasty bits we try to eliminate, will the reduced red and green channel acutance make people look that much better, or will the overall Quattro smoothing that we see even in gray pavement make people's skin look shinier/smoother.
  2. Given the lack of detail I'm seeing in bricks, how will the Quattro handle hair? Will we be able to see each individual strand as we do with the Merrill or will they blend together, especially if someone has red hair (especially artificially colored red hair which will have a narrower frequency response than natural red hair).

But realistically, without infinite funds, I think the Sony A7 with a fast sharp 50 makes more sense to me than a Quattro, because the Quattro won't do high ISO, video or shallow depth of field, and I'd rather have those as options than the smooth crisp look of the Quattro. (and maybe pick up a cheap Merrill for when I want that super detailed look, but since I already have one - why do I need another?).

AdamT
AdamT Forum Pro • Posts: 60,843
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

I can't agree with that Adam. I have a SD9 and a SD14 and their rendering is more like the Quattro than the Merrill. They look "smooth toned" even though they are very sharp. The Merrill looks hard, rough, gritty in comparison. This makes is very suited to rendering interest in what would otherwise be flat surfaces. It picks out surface texture.

Gotcha, I thought the issue was high microcontrast, the fine detail reproduction from the old 4.6Mp sensor was fantastic as it was from the 3.3Mp one , you need decent microcontrast to get this . I`ve never had a Merrill, in fact found the images too NR`d compared to the old DPs if anything though the resolution increase was very noticeable

Nothing will change that fact that the DP2M is not much fun to use though.

DPs aren`t . even an SD9 is lightning compared to any of them even for wile writes

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Gate bois Senior Member • Posts: 1,523
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

Quattro:

DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,680
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

I'm finding the results from the DP2M to be very different from the SD9/14 I have and the DP1 original I had - in a good way. And it is all about micro-contrast.

I'm not seeing any resolution advantage in 9 x 6 inch prints for obvious reasons but it has a fantastic ability to render subjects like old plaster, the sandy surface of rock and so on.  "3D" is an overused descriptor and doesn't really help that much but the effect is like lighting a surface from the side with intense grazing light: every bump and depression sticks out.

The problem is controlling the sharpness, there is almost too much of it and it can very crunchy.

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rjjr Forum Pro • Posts: 14,769
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test
1

DMillier wrote:

I agree that the Merrill contrast is a special effect, but it's one I like. Looking at the quattro images, they don't have it, even if they are plenty detailed.

What this means to me is that there is a reason to buy a Merrill because it can do something no other can. With the Quattro it is an alternative to standard cameras that doesn't have any special tricks. So the question you then have to ask yourselves it why should I get one of these rather than a high rez bayer that can produce similar image quality in a much better camera.

It's a conundrum for sure.

After seeing the new sample images from the DP2 Quattro on Imaging Resource there is no longer a conundrum for me. Anything over ISO 200 is poor to awful and it renders the red leaf fabric swatch in their test setup as pretty much a solid red at all ISOs...very bad.

The resolution is very good but that means nothing considering its rendering of reds. Even if the reds improve in a different mode or with a software/processing fix, the ISO performance is extremely disappointing.   Maybe next time Sigma.

MarkWW
MarkWW Contributing Member • Posts: 881
Re: Raw files for download .x3fs for download
1

mike earussi wrote:

Mark, try a combination of ACR Clarity (100%-200%) coupled with large radius sharpening. You can never get the Q to ever truly equal the M, but this combo helps.

Like I said, any sharpening done after SPP can be done to any camera so there's no point to it for the purposes of a comparison.

 MarkWW's gear list:MarkWW's gear list
Ricoh GR Digital III Ricoh GR Sigma DP3 Merrill Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX5 Sigma DP2 Merrill +8 more
Roland Karlsson Forum Pro • Posts: 29,115
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

Hng wrote:

Easy to see, clouds with M is 3D object, with Q no more.

You are making life a little too easy.

Our brains are marvellous image processors. So - what we see is not what is there. When taking an image you get a simplification of reality. It is just a flat object on a screen or in a print.

In order to get the feeling of reality back, artists make lots of manipulation of the image.

So, the 3D feeling you get when looking at Merrill images might be a deliberate manipulation - an enhancement not existing in real life.

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Roland Karlsson Forum Pro • Posts: 29,115
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

DMillier wrote:

Where the DP2m really shines is in the way it renders rough surfaces. For a shot of like a Mediterranean style old villa with cracked walls, peeling paint and lots of surface texture, the rendering is amazing, it really snaps into focus without excess sharpening.

I haven't found any evidence that the older Foveons can do this, nor Bayer cameras and I'm seeing the effect on small prints so it's not simple resolution, more extremely high contrast on small details that makes the detail easier to see.

It's a special effect for sure but it provides a large format film feel to surface texture. It's essentially what I look to shoot with my DP2Q.And even though the camera itself is woefully lacking and not much fun to use it makes it worth using for me. I wouldn't say that about Foveons with a smooth, gentle rendering.

But then again, everyone has different favourite subjects and no camera is ideally suited for everything...

My main point is that this pop/wow might be an illusion - an artificial enhancement. Lots of that stuff looks very nice.

NOTE - I am not saying it is - just that it might be.

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Roland Karlsson Forum Pro • Posts: 29,115
Re: Raw files for download .x3fs for download

MarkWW wrote:

Like I said, any sharpening done after SPP can be done to any camera so there's no point to it for the purposes of a comparison.

Actually there is.

The claim is that Merrill has something other cameras lack. If this "something" can be added in post processing, then it is not as bad as if it cant.

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Roland Karlsson Forum Pro • Posts: 29,115
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

+1

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DMillier Forum Pro • Posts: 21,680
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

1. I meant Dp2M of course, not DP2q  (doh!)

2.  I don't know whether the DP2M is a feature of the sensor or the software, it works well.  If it is software then maybe it could be done with other cameras too, which would be even better. The DP2M has limitations as a camera I prefer not to have to deal with, but for now, it's what I have.

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Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/davidmillier/

victorgv Senior Member • Posts: 1,883
Re: Not scientific, very casual Quattro vs. Merrill test

DMillier wrote:

I agree that the Merrill contrast is a special effect, but it's one I like. Looking at the quattro images, they don't have it, even if they are plenty detailed.

What this means to me is that there is a reason to buy a Merrill because it can do something no other can. With the Quattro it is an alternative to standard cameras that doesn't have any special tricks. So the question you then have to ask yourselves it why should I get one of these rather than a high rez bayer that can produce similar image quality in a much better camera.

It's a conundrum for sure.

May be price for one?

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