If you look back over my posts you will find quite a lot of comments about the need to shoot in RAW format and how I use RAW all the time. I have however been reminded by a couple of readers that not everyone does or even wants to shoot in RAW. So what should they do?
I have lots of concerns and reasons why I don’t shoot in JPG but one of the main reasons is the lack of post processing control. This is especially true of Noise Reduction and Sharpening which are applied to JPG’s in camera and which are key to determining the sharpness and detail in the finished image. If you are an LX5 and/or GX1 users I can tell you how to address this and my advice will probably apply to other cameras in the Panasonic Range as well as possibly other manufacturers.
There are two basic problems to my mind with the JPG’s from the LX5 and GX1 (and also the GF1 if I remember correctly). They have too much noise reduction and too little sharpening. If I had to shoot JPG I would be turning off noise reduction and sharpening in camera. I would then apply noise reduction as a separate step once I had the JPG on my computer before I did any image manipulation. I would then sharpen the final image to a level at which I am happy. Working in this way will help preserve your images and minimise loss of detail.
The way to switch off the noise and sharpening is through the Film Mode in the LX5. This is found in the Menu under the Record settings and is on the first page. Here you have the option to configure a new Custom film setting for which you can specify Contrast, Sharpening, Saturation and Noise Reduction. The GX1 is very similar to this.
If you want to shoot JPG but want to achieve sharp details, check your camera manual and give this approach a try.
In my previous blog I shared my process for making large prints with the LX5. I didn’t however explain about two of the other pieces of software that I also experimented with. The first of these that I want to tell you about is Photo Ninja which is a RAW converter. If the name reminds you of Noise Ninja, that’s because it’s by the same people.
Anyway, the reason I wanted to try out the converter is because many people are raving about the detail and quality of the images created. And to be honest, I have to agree. There was a huge amount of detail rendered and I didn’t have to work that hard to make the image sharp and of a high quality. Here you can see a small screen sample of an LX5 image shown at 100%.
No this hasn’t been sharpened other than a little RAW sharpening applied in the converter as I would in Lightroom.
I think the slider that really did the magic for me was something called “Detail”. When I used this the details just seemed to pop out but in a very natural way. It also did nothing to damage the colours which also rendered very well.
There were two interesting points to this experiment however:
I didn’t have to spend much time learning in order to produce excellent images and with a little practice I expect I could do better.
After I resized the image and did the same in Lightroom, I applied the Topaz Detail filter to both images. I expected the image from Noise Ninja to be better but it wasn’t. Both images were pretty much on a par. This suggests to me that Lightroom is also doing an excellent job of extracting details but you just don’t get to see it until you use an enhancement tool like Topaz Detail.
Will I switch to Noise Ninja? Probably not. I found the process of waiting for it to render images after each adjustment a little too time consuming. This is supposed to be lightweight image editing after all.
If you are interested in the link to Photo Ninja, here it is…
Since discussing my experiences with the X-Rite Color Passport and using this to generate Camera RAW profiles, I have received a number of requests to share my profiles. Being a good natured sort of chap I have decided to load these onto my Lenscraft website where anyone wanting to can download them for free. The only limitation is that you will need to sign up for free membership of my site to access the download page. Membership also gives you access to free materials as well as the profiles so I’m sure you will agree this is a pretty good deal.
The profiles once installed correctly should appear in the Adobe RAW converters in Photoshop and Lightroom when you load a RAW file for one of these cameras. I find them an improvement on the profiles shipped by Adobe but then they were generated for my cameras so this might not be the case for you.
Recently I realised there was a feature I was missing from the Sony NEX camera that I sold last year. This is the sweep panoramic where you simply sweep the camera horizontally or vertically to produce a panoramic when taking the shot. I thought this was a great feature and one that I could have used when shooting the Ribblehead Viaduct in an earlier blog. My friend who had an iPhone with him at the time had this feature and I now discover I have something similar on my Samsung phone.
To be fair, the Sony Sweep Panoramic dealt fine with large detail but if something had lots of small detail like rocks in a landscape, it didn’t always work well (again, covered in an earlier blog). Additionally if you didn’t move smoothly or in a straight line you could get some strange results. It complained when you moved too fast or too slow. Worse still, if the subject or you were moving, well you probably needed to forget it. I’m actually starting to wonder why I miss it so much!
Now, some of the cameras I use also have a Panoramic Assist mode, for example where they show a faint version of the previous picture overlaid on the camera LCD to help you line up. Again this isn’t perfect and I find it slow to use which means it might not be suitable for many situations where you need to act quickly. The only real solution to this is a true panoramic camera such as my Xpan but then I am back to shooting film which I don’t always want to do.
If you are a RAW shooter and you want the best quality possible, you will need to shoot individual images and then stitch them in software. That’s exactly what I did with the image you see above. This is a series of 6 images shot in RAW using a GF1. I shot the images from a moving boat when passing this particular island and the angle of coverage is about 160 degrees. Quite an extreme set of circumstances to shoot panoramic and one where speed was the key.
If you are wondering how I lined up 6 images so quickly (the boat was travelling quite fast), I used the cameras gridlines. On all my cameras I have the gridlines turned on that divide the screen horizontally and vertically into 3rds. I make a mental note as I shoot of where the vertical grid line is on one side so that I can move the camera to align the vertical line on the other side when shooting the next image in the sequence. This ensures I overlap my images about a third which is ideal for putting through stitching software such as Photoshop’s “photomerge” function. The horizontal gridlines also allow me to judge easily if I have moved the camera up or down.
This takes a little bit of practice but shoot around 20 such sequences and you can become incredibly quick. The image above is 10” x 36”, shot in RAW and could be printed at double this size with some interpolation. The stitching is spot on and there were no telltale joins. I could never have achieved this with any other method
I think I have commented before that I like to review the web logs for my site to see what searches people used to find me. Well I am seeing quite a lot of people searching for details about the quality of the RAW files for the LX5. When I see searches such as this which I haven’t particularly addressed I feel I must provide an answer so here goes.
The first thing that occurs to me is the vast number of variables that go into something like RAW file quality. There is the dynamic range, signal to noise ratio, etc. etc. etc. and my head hurts so I stop thinking about it. It then occurs to me that people really can’t be all that interested in the technicalities or they would just go and look up the LX5 on the DXO Marks web site and feel disappointed. No, what I think people are really looking for is some sort of real world indication about how good a camera the LX5 is when you shoot in RAW format and this actually encompasses lost of factors such as the sensor, the lens, post production etc.
Now this is a little difficult for me to comment on as I am biased, thinking the LX5 is a phenomenal camera. So I am going to do something a little out of the ordinary and show you an image shot in RAW format, converted and saved as a JPG and provide the RAW file for you to download and play around with. I’m also going to point out a few of the things that impress me about the images captured on my LX5 in RAW along the way. And just to be absolutely clear, this isn’t what I would class as being a good image, just an example of a RAW file and since I took this my understanding of how to get more performance out of the LX5 has improved.
The first thing I will point out is that there is quite a lot of latitude in the RAW files in terms of exposure. I usually overexpose my images slightly but I didn’t bother with this one. If you are loading the RAW file you will find you need to increase the exposure slightly. I also didn’t bother using a ND Graduated filter which I would normally use for shots such as this but the scene seemed to have reasonable contrast levels so I didn’t bother.
Now for my favourite part, the detail and sharpness. Look at the foreground stone wall and the grass to see how well defined it is at 100%. Now look at the distant hills and you can see the rock in the rock face at 100%. Finally take a look at the detail in the barbed wire. This is impressive stuff from such as small camera.
The final acid test is if you scaled this image you would be able to print it at A3+ size without a problem. You would need to sharpen it but it would produce a very crisp detailed print. I suspect you would probably get away with printing it even larger.
I won’t go on much more other than to say make sure you click on the image above to see it at 100% (it’s about 7Mb) and download the RAW file (about 12Mb in DNG format) to play about yourself.
This is just going to be a short blog today but I’m sure it’s going to answer a question quite a few Lightroom users have. If you shoot in RAW format then you will be using a RAW converter to convert your images to a picture format such as TIFF or JPG. This is one of the common uses for Lightroom which has the excellent “Develop” module (see my Lenscraft website for free membership and tutorials). One of the features of this module is that you can load in lens calibrations for your camera which will apply an adjustment to correct any lens distortion.
It is possible to create your own lens profiles using a lens calibration chart and some free software that can be downloaded from the Adobe website but this is quite tricky and time consuming. Adobe has therefore taken the approach of shipping Lightroom with some standard Camera and Lens profiles that can be selected. These generally correct the major distortions such as Barrelling and Pin cushioning. There are then further manual adjustments you can make to tweak your image. If however you are a Panasonic or Olympus Micro 4/3 user you might have wondered why these cameras are missing from the lens calibration menu.
The answer is simple, Adobe has built the profile correction into the software and it is automatically applied without needing to select the camera and lens. When I first read this I was a little sceptical but I managed to hunt down the confirmation on the Adobe web site with the answer coming from one of their senior engineers.
So all you Micro 4/3 Lightroom users out there, if you are still not happy all the lens distortion has been removed, turn to the manual adjustment sliders. If of course you have a compatible lens calibration chart, the software from Adobe and a lot of time and patience you could always create your own.
If you are a regular visitor to the Lightweight Photographer site you may be aware that I like to solve people’s photographic problems if I can. One of the problems that seems to crop up with some regularity on Forums is that when shooting with the LX5 using the Dynamic Black and White setting the images come out in colour but the colours look odd. Here is an example below.
The answer is relatively straight forward in that the user is shooting in RAW format. As RAW captures the image data but doesn’t apply any processing the images from a colour sensor will be in colour. If you want the Dynamic Black and White appearance for your image then you will need to capture your images in JPG format or at least RAW and JPG.
But why then the odd colour?
Well it helps add punch to the image when it is converted. The approach chosen by Panasonic is to bump the colour temperature up the maximum, shifting it to the warm end of the colour spectrum and reduce the tint settings for the RAW file (-95) so that the image is also shifted towards green. The internal processing of the camera then applies a digital filter and the result is a higher contrast image with greater tonal separation than a straight conversation. Here is the resulting file Dynamic B&W file.
Don’t however be lazy; lightweight yes but never lazy. Processing your colour images into Black and White will give you much greater creative control. The example at the top of the page was a conversion using Nik SilverEfex Pro 2 and took me around 3 minutes. I think that’s a good investment of my time.