Digital Photography

Sharpening RAW files from Small Sensor Cameras

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France, somewhere near Nontes. Sony RX10, ISO125, f/5.0, 1/250"
France, somewhere near Nontes. Sony RX10, ISO125, f/5.0, 1/250″

If you shoot with a small sensor camera and use Lightroom for RAW conversion, then it’s a good idea to take care when sharpening. Noise can be a particular problem when at low ISO settings but there are steps you can take. This video demonstrates how to avoid the ugly sharpening artefacts that can result and which tend to become exaggerated in later processing.

I hope you find this useful.

Amazing Film

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XPan image in Paris. Handheld using Ilford Delta 100.
XPan image in Paris. Handheld using Ilford Delta 100. Click to see a larger image.

This is another image that I just have to share. I shot this around 10 years ago in Paris on my XPan panoramic camera. It was shot on good old Ilford Delta 100 and processed using ID11. I scanned the image in two halves using my Minolta 5400 35mm scanner. The image is panoramic so you need to scan in two halves and then merge the two in Photoshop. The resulting image is 45” x 16” when printed at 300dpi.

Now here are two close up sections at 100% magnification with no sharpening. You can see where I have taken them from on the main image by the red boxes.

Section 1 from the roof
Section 1 from the roof

And the other section.

Section 2
Section 2

Whilst I’m amazed at how sharp the image is (I would love to have this scanned on a top quality scanner), what I really like the gritty feel it has. It’s not as clinical as a digital black and white. Perhaps I’m growing to appreciate black and white film more in my old age.

Appealing Nuclear Power

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Seascale Nuclear Power Station. Olympus EM5, Panasonic 45-150. Three image stitch with post processing in Nik Silver Efex.
Seascale Nuclear Power Station. Olympus EM5, Panasonic 45-150. Three image stitch with post processing in Nik Silver Efex. Click to see a larger version of the image.

Firstly, my apologies for the blog and video silence over the past week. I decided to take a break with my wife to do some walking in the Lake District and then to visit our Grandson over in France. In fact, I haven’t been back in the UK for more than a few hours and wanted to share this image.

I shot this from the top of a hill in the Lakes called Black Coombe. The Power Station in the centre of the shot is at Seascale and beyond this you can just make out the hills in Dumfries (somewhere that I have wanted to visit for a while but never found a good excuse).

The image was taken handheld with the EM5 and Panasonic 45-150 lens at 150mm. It’s not bad and should print OK but it is suffering from a lot of atmospheric distortion. The best cure for that of course is convert the image to black and white then throw in a lot of grain. It hides the fine detail but helps make the image appear sharper and less distorted.

Aperture & Sharpness

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Death Valley. Even for extreme cases such as this three image stitch, f/9.0 was all that was required for full depth of field.
Death Valley. Even for extreme cases such as this three image stitch, f/9.0 was all that was required for full depth of field using th e Panasonic GX1.

At one time I didn’t understand the relationship between aperture & image sharpness. I read many magazine articles and books where Landscape Photographers would commonly say they stopped the lens down to the smallest aperture to ensure the image was sharp from front to back. What I hadn’t realised is that they weren’t discussing image sharpness but depth of field. I also hadn’t realised that many of these photographers were using medium format cameras where depth of field could be a real issue. Fortunately, I now understand this relationship but there continues to be misinformation published on the subject.

Here then are the key points you need to be aware of in relation to depth of field:

  • Depth of field is how much of your image appears to be in focus from the nearest point to the most distant.
  • Depth of field is determined by the aperture you use. If all other variables remain the same, as you make the aperture smaller (larger f/ stop number), you will increase the depth of field.
  • Other factors affecting the depth of field include:
    • Where you place the point of focus – the nearer the camera the shallower the depth of field. It’s also worth remembering that the depth of field will extend twice as far beyond the point of focus as in front of it.
    • The size of the film or the image sensor – the smaller this is, the greater the depth of field at the same aperture.
    • The focal length of the lens can also make the depth of field appear greater – a wide angle lens makes the depth of field appear greater than a long telephoto lens.

When I first started in photography, what I failed to grasp is that the factors determining how sharp an image is are different to depth of field. Let’s take an example where you shoot three images using a typical lens; the first image with the aperture as wide as it will go, the second with the aperture as small as possible and the third with the aperture between the two extremes. If you then review the images looking at the point of focus, you would find that the third image with the aperture at mid-value is the sharpest image. This is because lenses are design to perform at their best when aperture is closed down by a couple of stops. Once you go to the smallest aperture though, the performance and sharpness is compromised by something called diffraction, which makes the image appear soft.

One benefit of using a Micro 43 camera for Landscape work is that you can typically achieve front to back sharpness (depth of field) without needing to stop the lens down to the smallest apertures. In my own work I tend to shoot Landscapes with the lens set to 12mm (24mm equivalent on a full frame camera). The aperture I tend to use is f/7.1 or sometimes f/8.0. Providing you place the point of focus correctly you will have all the depth of field you typically need and the lens will be near to its optimum performance.

Where I use the Sony RX10 which has a smaller 1-inch sensor, I tend to shoot with an aperture of around f/5.6 for full depth of field at 24mm. And when I was shooting with the LX5 compact camera I was using f/3.5 to f/5.0 for full depth of field at 24mm.

I hope this helps all you small sensor Landscaper photographers.

New Nik Color Efex Video Post

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If you have been following my series of video posts on the Essential Landscape filters found in the Nik Color Efex software, I have uploaded the fourth in the series. This is possibly the last of these so if anyone has a particular request relating to Nik filters or other aspects of image editing let me know and I will add this to the list for future videos.

If you haven’t already visited my You Tube channel the link is below:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCYMWL3WXU9QMeOUhD3lOpEw

I hope you enjoy.

Friday Image No. 100

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Bamburgh beach, Northumberland. Shot about 30 minutes after sunset in Winter. Canon EOS 300D.
Bamburgh beach, Northumberland. Shot about 30 minutes after sunset in Winter. Canon EOS 300D.

When I started publishing a Friday Image I never dreamed that I would reach 100 but here it is. I shot this image almost 10 years ago using a Canon 300D DSLR. This was the first affordable consumer DSLR and cost me around £900 with a kit lens. At the time I was shooting 35mm film with a Canon EOS3 and a Pentax 67 MKII medium format kit. I had considered buying an XPan but decided I wanted to try digital.

Today, I’m going back over the RAW files of the day and reprocessing some. The quality of the image that this camera produced is amazing when you use the latest editing tools. It’s also only now that I am able to produce the image from the RAW file that I envisaged. Previously the colours just didn’t work and the shadows were completely blocked up and black.

The image was converted from RAW in Lightroom and then enhanced in Nik Color Efex. I used it as an example for my latest video on You Tube if you want to see what I did.

Have a great weekend.

I Have to Show You This

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The hills around Haweswater, Cumbria.
The hills around Haweswater, Cumbria.

I find this image very exciting. Now before you think I have lost the plot I need to explain a little about why I’m excited. It’s not the content or the composition, although I do quite like the scene, it’s actually the quality that’s exciting me.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the fine detail viewed at 100% magnification.

Foreground area at 100% maagnification. Click to enlarge
Foreground area at 100% maagnification. Click to enlarge

And from a little further in the distance.

Detail from further back in the image at 100% magnification. Click to enlarge.
Detail from further back in the image at 100% magnification. Click to enlarge.

I’m sure you will agree that the image quality is very good and that the camera has resolved the fine detail in this scene well.

Now the exciting thing for me is the camera I used for this shot. It’s actually a Canon 300D using a Sigma 10-20 lens and was shot in September 2006. But what I find really remarkable is that the reason for the quality is not the camera but today’s software. Somehow the software we have now appears to pull much better image quality from these old RAW files.

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