Sunday, February 14, 2010

50D RAW Processing Shootout 2: ISO 3200

As promised, here's the follow up to my previous post comparing RAW Processing from Aperture 2 (AP2), Aperture 3 (AP3), Digital Photo Professional (DPP), and Lightroom 3 Beta (LR3b).

Someone did ask about the newly-released Bibble 5. I haven't downloaded the trial version to play with yet, so it's not included.

This time, we'll be looking at 100% crops from this image, taken at ISO 3200 under some weird tungsten/compact fluorescent light.

RAW Shootout: Lady

As before, I simply opened the file in each program, and then exported the result of its default processing as a 16-bit TIFF file. In this case, that means no color correction was performed on the photos before export, so they are yellow.

I cropped out the same section of each file and put them into this one composite image to make it easy to see the differences between the noise and detail levels. The image is really big because I saved it at maximum quality when I converted to JPEG to preserve the chroma noise detail.

My conclusion - LR3b did the best, closely followed by AP3. The difference here is nowhere near as dramatic as it is with ISO 400 photo, but LR3b seems to do a slightly better job with the chroma noise while retaining more detail.

AP2 gets third place, because even though it doesn't deal well with the chroma noise, it does a good job preserving detail. DPP is last: it does a good job eliminating chroma noise, but is by far the worst for destroying detail.

RAW Shootout - Canon 50D ASA 3200, 100% Crop

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

50D RAW Processing Shootout: Aperture 2, Aperture 3, Digital Photo Professional, Lightroom 3 Beta

In my last post, I complained about how Aperture 2's processing of my Canon 50D's RAW files left in way too much chroma noise and how my hope that Aperture 3 would match or exceed the current champion, Lightroom 3 Beta, had been dashed.

I also promised examples, and here they are.

First up, this shot of jazz saxaphonist Russell McCray performing in a hotel bar.

RAW Shootout: Sax Player

Shot at ASA 400 with my Canon 50D and trusty 50 f/1.8 lens, lit by a single Canon 550EX strobe firing through a Honl snoot about 30 feet away from the stage, facing the sax player. The flash was triggered by a radio slave, which allowed me to move over to the side of the stage to shoot this photo. Not all places allow this sort of thing, but this one did.

At ASA 400, I expect to see a little luminance noise, but no chroma noise. In Aperture 2, I was seeing a lot of chroma noise - so much that I thought I might have to send my 50D in for warranty service.

And then I did a RAW processing shootout between Aperture 2 (AP2), Canon Digital Photo Professional (DPP) and Lightroom 3 beta (LR3b), and discovered that it wasn't the camera. It was AP2, and it was getting schooled by both DPP and LR3b. Especially LR3b.

This really, really bothered me. As I have said before - I prefer Aperture's way of doing things to Lightroom's. But the image quality difference was too great to ignore.

So I pinned my hopes on Apple finally delivering the much-anticipated Aperture 3 (AP3) with improved RAW processing, before LR3b expired.

And, earlier this week Apple did!

I eagerly downloaded the trial, and redid the RAW Processing Shootout. An damn it, LR3b is still better.

AP3 has visible improvements over AP2 in it's RAW processing for the 50D. But Adobe set the bar damn high with LR3b, and AP3 just doesn't match it.

The proof is in the image below. It contains 100% crops of the same section of the above photo, as processed from the RAW file by AP2, AP3, DPP and LR3b. I simply opened the file in each program, and then exported the result of its default processing as a 16-bit TIFF file. I cropped out the same section of each file and put them into this one composite image to make it easy to see the differences between the noise and detail levels. The image is really big because I saved it at maximum quality when I converted to JPEG to preserve the chroma noise detail.

My conclusion - LR3b did the best, period. Second place goes to DPP, but it also rendered the output very flat, some of which got lost in the JPEG conversion. AP3 did better than AP2, but both left more chroma noise than I find acceptable in the image.

One disclaimer - this test is only applicable to the 50D. Folks who use a different camera, especially one from a different manufacturer, might get different results from the RAW processors in this test, and reach a different conclusion about which program does a better job.

That said, here's comparison file, for your pixel-peeping pleasure.



Raw Processing Shootout - Canon 50D, ASA 400, 100% Crop

I'll post an ASA 3200 comparison separately, later.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Aperture 3 vs Lightroom 3 Beta - 50D RAW Developing

Straight up, I like Aperture better than Lightroom. The way it works fits my mind better.

However, I've been working with the Lightroom 3 beta lately, because I've been unhappy the with amount of chroma noise in the photos from my new Canon 50D in Aperture 2 (ISO 400 shots). I'm shooting RAW, so this isn't an in-camera conversion problem.

For the 50D, Lightroom 3 Beta's RAW development simply blows away Aperture 2 in the image quality department. It's not even close.

Today (technically, yesterday), Apple announced the long hoped for Aperture 3. I grabbed the trial, and immediately put it through some RAW development tests, hoping that it would equal or better the image quality from Lightroom 3 beta.

Nope.

Aperture 3 is a solid improvement over Aperture 2 in the image quality department for 50D RAW files. Apple certainly raised the bar.

Unfortunately, the RAW developer in LR3b has already set an even higher standard.

I'll post examples tomorrow. Right now, I'm going to bed disappointed.

Single Speedlight Challenge 2 - A Hard Light, a Long Way off

Lining Up the Shot

Lighting set up: A Canon 550EX through a 10 degree grid spot about 20 feet away from the cue ball, to camera right, firing straight down the table.

The grid spot confines the flash's output into a tight circle. It's generally used to provide a hard light (one with sharply defined shadows), with dramatic falloff to blackness.

But, if look at the photo, the the light falloff from the right edge of photo to the left edge, isn't all that great. There are sharp shadows, but the pool cure isn't blown out compared to the shooter's face.

That's because the light is so far away.

In the previous entry in the Single Speed Light Challenge, I discussed the inverse square law of light: light intensity decreases by the square of the distance increase from the light source.

In that photo, I used that law to render a background filled with bookcases as featureless black. Here, I use it to get relatively even (not completely even) exposure across the back half of the pool table with a single, hard light.

It works because the distance from the light to the cue ball is about 20 feet. The distance from the cue ball to the face is about 24 feet. It works out to about a half stop of light falloff between the two. If I could have moved the flash even further back, I could have reduced the falloff even more.

Where the grid helps is by keeping the flash off the background, allowing it to go dramatically black.