Lightroom 3 Beta 2 – the high ISO wunderkind

I’m not going to bore you with countless 100% clips. Just open this one file. It is a 100% screen shot of a tiled view of the same raw file from a Canon EOS 550D (aka Rebel T2i), taken at ISO 6400.

On the left, you see what Adobe Camera Raw 5.6 does with this file using no sharpening, 25 Luminance NR, 50 colour NR. On the right, you see what LR 3 Beta 2 does using the same settings (LR noise reduction has some further options – these are not adjusted).

When exporting the LR image to Photoshop, a dialog box appears saying you may need to install Adobe Camera Raw version 5.7! At the time of writing, version 5.7 is not yet available. But LR3 Beta 2 knows it exists… I used LR Rendering for this sample.

Click the image, open the full size screen shot. Or view it at
http://www.pbase.com/davidkilpatrick/image/123036282

The 12,800 shot is by no means bad either. You could compare it with ISO 1600 shots from the first 10 megapixel CCDs.

Trust me, the LR 3 Beta2 result is superior both to the Canon in-camera JPEG and the Canon DPP processed result. Had I the time I’d post examples of every ISO from 100 to 12,800 and you would see something very special – the increase in size of ‘grain’ with each speed step, but nothing more. NOTHING more than a proprotional increase in grain size, just like film  used to be.

No oatmeal. No porridge. No hot pixels, no smeary watercolours. No colour blurring and luminance smoothing. Just neat, tight, virginal grain. Hmm. I should not have said that. Even so…

And another things – it works on everything. It works on old files, new files. RAW files from before the Ark got stuck on Ararat. Night shots taken when night shots could only make 7 x 5 inch prints. Nikon, Canon, Sony, old Minolta, Pentax, Olympus – download this beta, and you just discovered great pictures in the stuff you thought was rubbish because you accidentally used ISO 800 when that meant shaking the pepperpot over your soup!

Go download! http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/lightroom3/

Tip: to use Lightroom use a front end, just set Photoshop as your editor, and after adjusting the pic hit Command-E – same as hitting the Open button in Adobe Camera Raw. Go straight to Photoshop, Do Not Pass Go, and do not (yet!) spend £200!

– DK

Nikon D3S video: dark, rain and wind 400mm f/2.8

As part of my tests of the Nikon D3S (British Journal, report in December, with additional material by Richard Kilpatrick who is shooting with Nikon on November 25th at a press event) I dragged the £6,000 400mm f/2.8 AF-S IF ED G supertele into the rain as darkness gradually forced the ISO up from a mere 10,000 to the maximum 102,400. The object was make a short video showing rising floodwaters, no threat in our town but still dramatic to watch.

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Here’s how it came back from the hour in the rain, a quick wipe down with an oily rag and it was all as good as new. Actually, it needed a thorough drying with the towel then a clean up with a lint free microfibre cloth to remove dust and towelly stuff. The very deep lens shade kept the exposed front element totally dry despite the wind and rain; I just made sure it was never aiming into the wind.

During the shoot, wind noise was a major problem. I locked the microphone to level 2 manual gain, not automatic which would have been a disaster. Many clips had to be shortened, some discarded due to violent wind noise I could not mask. The sheer weight of this combo made lugging it with a decent Slik tripod (pan and tilt head for video) difficult; I drove to the evening location with the rig laid flat on the back seat of the car, but still had to walk several hundred yards for some shots. I wore a Tog24 parka and found that by pulling the fur-lined hood over the camera body I could cut out nearly all the wind noise. I must have looked like a view camera operator with a dark cloth, or something out of Monty Python with my jacket pulled up and the hood over the Nikon!

But, this seemed such a good solution to the wind noise I would consider unzipping the hood from the parka and using it as a baffle in finer weather.

My favourite part of the video is the one with the worst noise, where I was not able to keep the wind away from the direction of shooting – the sequence of the road (flooded by the morning) with headlights, tail lights and cars in rain. This consists of three takes blended with long crossfades. During each take, the manual focus of the 400mm used at near wide open f/3.2 aperture was pulled to bring the moving traffic in and out of focus, and create huge bokeh circles from the lights. This would be impossible with a camcorder and not all that easy with a conventional high-end video kit. The combination of full frame 35mm format and the fast 400mm has enabled a highly effective cinematic technique to succeed on the first time of trying. With some markers on the focus ring, some practice and many more takes the result could have been refined further.

But I was getting very wet and so was the camera!

The first part of the video is all on the 400mm with tripod, with High ISO video enabled. The ‘next morning’ stuff is on the 24-70mm, hand held, locked down to ISO 200 at f/8.

I’m not sure when our final review of the camera will appear in the British Journal, it should be early December.

The video is encoded to best quality 720p from iMovie09, and can be best be downloaded and viewed without any YouTube jerkiness at full res if your connection is not good.

– David Kilpatrick

Nikon D5000 short film with pull focus

Though autofocus is not possible with live video in any current true DSLR (the Panasonic GH1 promises this) it is possible to use pull-focus effects with a little planning. We now have a Nikon D5000 – it won the competition for best fine image detail when comparing results frame by frame with Canon’s nominally higher resolution rival. It was also a very good deal, £629 inc VAT with an 18-55mm VR kit lens and a SanDisk Ultra II 8GB SDHC card plus Crumpler Messenger Boy 2500 bag thrown in free (from Jacobs). You Tube sample –

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Sigma’s DP2 – Camera less obscure

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Sigma’s DP1 was launched in 2007 (with production models available in 2008) to great critical acclaim. occupying a unique spot in the marketplace by combining an APS-C format sensor with a compact “point and shoot” style body. There were a few controversial design choices, and the user and reviewer feedback varied greatly with the time and effort people were prepared to put in learning about the camera, yet the verdicts on the optical performance were united – the DP1 was astounding. Now the DP2 has arrived, with production-quality units available from UK retailers.
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Kelso Races – D5000 freehand with 70-300mm VR

The wind noise has made filming with the D5000 almost impossible for the last few days, because it has been very windy. Simple as that. So I devised a popshield or wind sock for the tiny microphone by cutting a piece of red nyloop fabric from a pad which once belonged in the bottom of a lens case. Then the 70-300mm lens arrived, so I tried this combination on a race when the light was reasonable and it was not raining.

Technically, it’s not a good idea to pan with action when holding a lens of this size at arms’ length in order to see the framing on a rear screen. However, I had already experimented with a monopod and found that didn’t work – my pans tended to skew the horizon too easily – and for this clip, I did not want to use a tripod. I wanted to see what the VR did, and how well it worked with a fixed focus set on the fence before starting.

– DK

Nikon D5000 HD video – May Day evening

True to promise, the Nikon D5000 did become available on May 1st in the UK, and my review camera turned up mid-day in time to be photographed and have its battery charged. Taking it out on my walk to the post (regrettably, to send in large sums of VAT and tax…) the sun came out though it was a very cold and windy day. With the sun, the breeze dropped to a reasonable level and on the way back I was struck by the motion of the trees, leaves and flowers.

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Canon EOS 500D video test

The clip originally shown here has been replaced by an edited selection, shot in a mixture of 1080 and 720 modes, assembled using iMovie and written as a 720p final project for YouTube. Don’t mean to cause confusion, some visitors may have linked to this post already, and I do not want to add another post. Please feel free to link directly to the YouTube vid or to this page.

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Sekonic's camera calibration

The Sekonic Digitalmaster L-758D meter offers the solution to variable ISO/EI ratings, and apparent sensitivity and contrast curves variations found in DSLRs. With a USB interface to link it up to a PC/Mac calibration program, the L-758D can remember three different cameras, two types of lighting (ambient or flash) and two measuring methods (incident or reflected) plus a range of ISO values for each of the cameras. There are twelve basic ‘profiles’ that can be stored, and within each profile a range from ISO 3 to ISO 8000.

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Canon EOS 5D MkII, Nikon D3X, and Sony Alpha 900 compared

This set of full size shots was taken with the still life left set up, because the Nikon and Canon cameras were not here at the same time. The report originally appeared in December 2008 on photoclubalpha. It compares the A900, 5DMkII and D3X using the converters supplied by the makers – Image Data Converter SR2, Digital Photo Professional, and Capture NX2. Each small image in the article can be clicked to open a Level 10 quality full size JPEG – beware, the largest is over 13MB of data.

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