Making Large LX5 Prints Again

This isn’t an image I have chosen to print large but it does help me appreciate how great the LX5 is. You should be able to make out a post on the horizon. If I zoom in to 200% on my monitor with the full resolution image I can make out a series of white depth marks on the post. The ability to resolve this much detail is simply amazing for such a small camera. By the way, the light rays are real.

It’s not often that I have free time these days but this weekend was different. My wife had gone to a knitting exhibition over in Harrogate with her sister and I found myself with a free afternoon. On the rare occasions when this happens and I don’t have any photography organised I like to experiment with photography software and image processing. This weekend was no exception and I decided I wanted to produce some large LX5 prints.

My target was to produce a 30” inch print which would stand close scrutiny.  Whilst a print of this size needs to have some distance between the image and the viewer to be appreciated, I also want to feel happy that if someone (probably me) sticks their nose up to the print, that it would still appear detailed and sharp. The image I went to work on was this picture of Brooklyn Bridge (shown below) that I shot last March on my LX5 whilst visiting New York.

LX5 image of the Brooklyn Bridge which I selected for printing at 30″ x 20″

When we prepare an image we usually think about our vision and how we can create this using either the camera or image manipulations such as dodging and burning. But if you are intending to print large you also need to evaluate the image to find and correct weaknesses that will become apparent in a larger print. The main areas of concern are noise, sharpness and detail.

The detail element of the image really needs to be addressed first during image capture. The best way to do this is to use good lenses, shoot in RAW and then expose to the right on the histogram (overexpose the image slightly). This moves a lot of areas out of the shadows and helps open them up to increase detail. Also the way image sensors work, a lot more information is captured in the darker areas with a lot less noise present. The result is a more detailed image which is sharper in the darker areas. The over exposure is then corrected when the RAW file is converted. As I always shoot in this way I had a good starting RAW file.

My next step was to assess the image for weaknesses. Here I could see some limited Luminance noise, especially in the clear blue sky. I decided that I needed to do a good job of selective noise reduction to focus on the shadows and on the sky. I did this using the Nik Define filter but I was careful to make my conversion from RAW with no sharpening and only colour noise reduction first. By not sharpening at all I ensured the noise was not emphasised before I applied the noise reduction. I also like to ensure the Nik Define filter is the first luminance noise reduction applied to the image as I have found this works best.

The steps above gave me a nice clean starting position to make my adjustments and convert to Black and White. After the Black and White conversion I used a programme called Topaz Detail which is very good at revealing details hidden in the image. Only once I was happy with this did I resize my image and then apply selective sharpening to the finished image. This gave me a nicely detailed and sharp image that was also very clean in terms of noise. Whilst I don’t yet have the print I can judge how it will look by viewing my image at 50% magnification.I have taken a screen grab of part of the 30inch x 20 inch image zoomed to 50% so you can judge this for yourself.

Captured on an LX5 and enlarged to 30″ x 20″. This section of the enlarged image is shown at 50% magnification to give an approximation of the detail in the final print.

I also produced a second resized image at 18” on the longest side in order to print on A3+ paper. The resulting print is very detailed, with nice tones and is exceedingly sharp.

I hope information helps you if you are seeking to make larger prints from an LX5 or similar quality compact.

2 thoughts on “Making Large LX5 Prints Again

  1. Interesting! I have enjoyed my own LX5 for 2 years now. Great camera, and I enjoy your work on this site. Funny-whenever I think of getting something like a GX1 or such you write something that shows me it might be a waste of money!
    A question-I see you overexpose slightly-I was thinking that raw files held better shadow detail and tolerated underexposure better than overexposure. I will try that soon to see-though I find that I can do pretty well just with JPG anyway.

    1. The LX5 is a great camera and you can achieve super results. It doesnt however hold up to comparison with the GX1. Its also easier to achieve super high quality results.

      Yes I do over expose slightly which is to reveal detail in shadows. The LX5 like most digital cameras is tuned to capture far more details in the highlights than in the shadows. I would therefore rather darken a show area than try to lighten it. You can test this for yourself by increasing the exposure on a raw file. Check the shadows and you will find higher levels of noise and that edges just arent sharp when compared to light areas.

      I hope that gives some food for thought.

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