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Author Topic: DSLR v Medium Format  (Read 20419 times)
digitaldog
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« Reply #20 on: August 12, 2007, 11:31:33 AM »
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Andrew,
I'd forgotten I had expressed an opinion on this matter (2 years ago!!).

It's not clear to me precisely under what circumstances 16 bit will be noticeably advantageous compared with 8 bit. However, if we start from your premise that 16 bit is all about editing headroom, then let's ask the questions, 'When are images never edited? Have I ever seen a completley unedited image? What does it look like?'

There's such a thing as in-camera processing, even of RAW images and certainly of jpegs. That's editing, isn't it?

I'm teaching all week with limited time to follow this discussion. I will say no, Raw processing is not editing, its rendering. There's no data loss, its true non destructive since the pixels are rendered from the Raw data (they are forgive the term, virgin pixel data) rendered from the high bit Raw data. Rendering is a bit different from editing of existing pixel numeric values.
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Ray
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« Reply #21 on: August 13, 2007, 08:14:50 PM »
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I'm teaching all week with limited time to follow this discussion. I will say no, Raw processing is not editing, its rendering. There's no data loss, its true non destructive since the pixels are rendered from the Raw data (they are forgive the term, virgin pixel data) rendered from the high bit Raw data. Rendering is a bit different from editing of existing pixel numeric values.
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Well, I suppose we won't hear from you for a few days.  

I understand that the conversion or rendering of the RAW data to a viewable image format is not considered to be editing. The unanswered question here is, what processing, if any, takes place after the A/D conversion but prior to the recording of the RAW data to the memory card?

We know that in Nikon cameras such as the D2X there's an option to turn on noise reduction, which unfortunately reduces resolution. In the 5D there appears to be some noise reduction taking place at high ISO's because image resolution suffers (in RAW images) at ISO 1600 and 3200, more so than in the 1Ds2.

It appears that 12 bits are sufficient to record the full dynamic range of a Canon DSLR. Although the pixel pitch on the sensors in MF backs such as the P45 is no greater than that of some Canon DSLRs, in fact slightly smaller at 6.8 microns than the pixel pitch of the 1Ds2 at 7.2 microns, 16 bits are apparently needed to accommodate the wider dynamic range of the typical MFDB, presumably because of the greater fill factor and well capacity of the CCD which doesn't have to make room for on-chip processors.

BTW, the first post in this thread appears to begin with Jonathan Wienke's reply to the OP. What happened to the original post I wonder?
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Ray
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« Reply #22 on: August 13, 2007, 08:19:46 PM »
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I've quantized ISO 100 RAWs from the mk3 to 12 bits, and they are indistinguishable from the full 14 bits after RGB interpolation, even zooming deep into the shadows, as long as the 12 bit version is promoted back to 14 bits with zeros in the 2 LSBs.
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John,
Why did you not also quantize ISO 6400 RAWs from the 1D3 to 12 bits?
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Aboud
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« Reply #23 on: September 05, 2007, 06:44:54 AM »
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I thought the Fuji and new canon are true 14-bit not 12-bit?
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Canon's release on the new 1DsMkIII says it is 14 bit.
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John Sheehy
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« Reply #24 on: September 05, 2007, 06:59:59 PM »
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John,
Why did you not also quantize ISO 6400 RAWs from the 1D3 to 12 bits?
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Sorry, I didn't notice your reply until today.  This forum is a little hard to keep up with with my approach (to look at "View New Posts"), as the high level of activity on this site makes things scroll out of the first three pages pretty quickly sometimes.

I didn't quantize ISO 6400 RAWs because I don't have any, and because I know that ISO 100 or 50 are the most likely to benefit from extra bits.  I don't think that ISO 1600 is even worthy of 12 bits; 11 would be sufficient.  There is a lot of waste in these cameras, with the manufacturers trying to impress us with bit depths that are overkill with the current noise levels.
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Ray
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« Reply #25 on: September 05, 2007, 08:46:38 PM »
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  I don't think that ISO 1600 is even worthy of 12 bits; 11 would be sufficient.  There is a lot of waste in these cameras, with the manufacturers trying to impress us with bit depths that are overkill with the current noise levels.
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I'm struggling to justify upgrading from my 20D to the 40D. I know there are some nice features such as a faster frame rate, ISO bracketing, faster focussing etc but it's difficult to see any fundamental performance increase in either resolution or noise.

I'm wondering how useful that faster frame rate would be for hand-held bracketing for HDR purposes, now that CS3 has a much improved auto-alignment feature.

This indecision is compounded by Michael's claim, in his review of the 40D, that image quality is on a par with that of the 5D, at least as good. If that's true, then my 5D would become redundant. I already own an EF-S 10-22 zoom, which is roughly equivalent to my Sigma 15-30 on the 5D. With just 3 lenses and a 1.4x extender I'd have an FL range from 16mm to almost 900mm. (10-22mm, 24-105mm, 100-400mm).

If only Canon had given us a bit more with the 40D, 12mp instead of 10mp, an additional ISO of 6400 like the 1D3, then I would not have such hesitation.

I think I might wait for the 5D Mk II.
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John Sheehy
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« Reply #26 on: September 06, 2007, 09:17:12 PM »
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I'm struggling to justify upgrading from my 20D to the 40D. I know there are some nice features such as a faster frame rate, ISO bracketing, faster focussing etc but it's difficult to see any fundamental performance increase in either resolution or noise.

I have only seen ISO 100 RAWs so far, but they have about 1/2 stop more DR (read noise drops from 2.07 to 1.38 ADU (adjusted to 12-bit).

Comments I've read from people who already have 40Ds are that the shutter is quieter, and the camera is more responsive all around.

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I'm wondering how useful that faster frame rate would be for hand-held bracketing for HDR purposes, now that CS3 has a much improved auto-alignment feature.

This indecision is compounded by Michael's claim, in his review of the 40D, that image quality is on a par with that of the 5D, at least as good.

That depends what he means by that; the FF has the advantage of higher line resolution per frame from the same lens; this and the fact of the higher pixel count were the only reasons the 5D gave better images than the 20D.  Electrically, each pixel on the 5D is almost identical to the 20D from ISO 100 to 1600, except the 5D had a slight disadvantage in DR, due to a lower highlight clipping level.

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If that's true, then my 5D would become redundant. I already own an EF-S 10-22 zoom, which is roughly equivalent to my Sigma 15-30 on the 5D.
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The sigma on the FF is significantly sharper than the 10-22 I would think.  My 15-30 is very sharp, but its downfall is its "sunflare".
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Ray
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« Reply #27 on: September 07, 2007, 03:10:43 AM »
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The sigma on the FF is significantly sharper than the 10-22 I would think.  My 15-30 is very sharp, but its downfall is its "sunflare".
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I've just compared the 10-22 on my 20D at 10mm with the Sigma 15-30 on my 5D at 15mm. That 1mm difference in effective focal length seems surprisingly significant. I had to move the tripod back to get the same FoV as the 5D.

There's no doubt that the 5D/Sigma 15-30 combination produces sharper results than the 20D/10-22, at the shortest FL. Without further testing, it's difficult to say to what extent this is due to softness in the 10-22 lens and to what extent it's due to the fewer pixels of the 20D. The main point is, I think it unlikely that the 40D with 10-22 zoom would be on a par with the 5D/15-30.
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lehtila
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« Reply #28 on: September 07, 2007, 10:52:55 AM »
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Hmmm.  I want to pick up on the discussion a few comments back, about bit depth and noise and colour gamut, before it got on to lenses.  

I would guess that many of the topics being discussed here are independent variables, and are being mixed together into a bit of a messy soup.  Noise, for example, is generated by each photosite, along with the signal.  Every electronic device creates some noise.  If the signal level is very low (dim light) then noise becomes a bigger issue, starting to overpower the signal itself.  Hotter sites also generate more noise and there has been discussion about the heating of various sensors and how that affects the image.  Amplification of the signal also amplifies noise, so higher ISO (higher amplification) means more noise.  If a photosite could be built that generates no noise (impossible) then there would be no noise, irrespective of bit depth, 2 or 22.  Noise and bit depth are independent variables.

Bit depth is a design feature of AtoD converters.  Converters are electronic devices that are built with a specific bit depth.  That is just a physical feature of the converter.  An analogue signal being converted to digital will have more detail saved if converted with an AtoD converter that has more bits.  Audio fanatics talked about this a lot when CDs were replacing LPs.  

So, not having looked into the details, I am guessing that the analogue signal received through the lens (this device does not count photons per se) is converted to a digital signal after each photosite.  I’m sure there are not 16 million A to D converters on the chip(s), so it must be somehow streamed sequentially to a number of parallel converters.  Whoever talked about detail between limits is right.  The A to D converters can only use the dynamic range fed to them by the photosites.  Again, these are two independent operations.  The bit depth does not extend or reduce the dynamic range (unless the Ato D converter was very badly designed, which I doubt).  The AtoD converter simply stores more or less detail within the photosite’s dynamic range, and, I’m sure, is designed to cover the total range.

Then there is colour.  Each photosite is sensitive to a range of  the electromagnetic spectrum and produces a signal when that part of the spectrum ‘excites’ it.  This is nonlinear, and I have no idea if the camera manufacturers try to do something to account for that.  I could get into colour theory ( but would have to look it up again) so I will just remind   that there are 3 sensors per site, one for each of the primary colours.  So a measure of the real colour is based on the relative values from each of the three sites.  Bit depth should play into this I guess, because the greater the detail about each of the primary colours ( more bits) the greater the accuracy of the final mix.

The last bit is the construction of the sensor.  There are lenses at each site.  The bigger the lens the higher the signal so the lower the noise (relatively speaking).  The lenses, I am again guessing, also have colour filters on them ?? I haven’t really looked into that but assume it is the case, so they can differentiate between the primary colours.  Then there are UV filters built in because the photosites do not have the same colour sensitivity as our eyes and we do want the pictures to look the same as when we see the real thing.  I haven’t explored the details of sensor spectral sensitivity at all, but the point I want to make is that the colour gamut is a function of the sensor and the filters that are used, not a function of bit depth.  It is the fine gradations within the gamut that are a function of bit depth.

If there are any Electronics Engineers/camera/chip designers out there that find fault with my reasoning, please let me know.
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djgarcia
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« Reply #29 on: October 08, 2007, 02:31:31 PM »
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Well, I think noise, most of which I'm assuming (there's that word) originates in the sensor complex, would be more faithfully reproduced coming from a 14-bit A/D converter ... maybe more aesthetically pleasing?  
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« Reply #30 on: October 08, 2007, 11:41:21 PM »
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Bit depth is a design feature of AtoD converters.  Converters are electronic devices that are built with a specific bit depth.  That is just a physical feature of the converter.  An analogue signal being converted to digital will have more detail saved if converted with an AtoD converter that has more bits.  Audio fanatics talked about this a lot when CDs were replacing LPs. 

Let's look at the audio analogy. My enthusiasm for hi fi matters extended from a few years prior to the introduction of the CD to a few years after. As I understand, the bit depth of 16 per channel was a minimum necessary to faithfully reproduce the entire gamut of audible frequencies (20hz to 20kHz) with inaudible noise. I think S/N was typically 98db, a huge improvement on the LP vinyl record which was around 58db without the later compression technology like dbx which was beginning to become popular about the time the CD became available.

The early CD sound was much criticised for its harshness, the explanation being that the sound engineers continued using the same old techniques they'd been used to using with the analog systems which had their own built-in roll-offs and softening effects. I believe there was also a certain harshness introduced by the steep 'brick-wall' filters used in the digital systems. These initial problems have been fixed by oversampling and greater bit depth. I believe DVD Audio is now 24 bit but I think the problems had been fixed without resorting to the greater bit depth. The differences between a well-produced 16 bit audio CD and a 24 bit DVD Audio disc are very subtle as I understand, probably too subtle for my hearing, and certainly require top-end equipment for playback.

I suspect that moving from 12 bit to 14 or 16 bit A/D conversion with relatively small-photosite DSLRs like Canon's is like upgrading from 16 bit audio to 24 bit audio. One struggles to find an improvement.
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #31 on: October 21, 2007, 05:22:34 AM »
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The DSLRs all come with 12 bit data.

The Leica Digital-Module-R is 16-bit.
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Graeme Nattress
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« Reply #32 on: October 21, 2007, 08:45:50 AM »
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Basically, quantisation noise is 6db per bit, so 16bits has a 96db noise floor, assuming the rest of the circuitry doesn't eliminate that.

Frequency is a function of sample frequency, not bit depth. Frequency must be at least twice wanted maximum recordable frequency to avoid, yes, you guessed it, aliasing. It's a sampled system! Brick wall filters can be built electronically, so you can get very close to the maximum with a very steep filter - something you can't do optically with an OLPF, but in both cases they're necessary. Audio aliasing sounds horrible, just as visual aliasing is ugly.

The main problem, as I see it, with early CD players was that they didn't fully understand all the nuances of digital playback - and they shared a single a to d over two channels, many were only 14 bit. You can take a well mastered CD from way back when and play it on a modern player and it can sound much improved.

That said, a lot of early CDs were mastered by people who didn't understand digital technology or it's nuances. They were used to mastering for vinyl where you'd be able to "get away" with more treble nasties. Remember LPs go through a brutal equalisation curve that CDs just don't have / need.

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Let's look at the audio analogy. My enthusiasm for hi fi matters extended from a few years prior to the introduction of the CD to a few years after. As I understand, the bit depth of 16 per channel was a minimum necessary to faithfully reproduce the entire gamut of audible frequencies (20hz to 20kHz) with inaudible noise. I think S/N was typically 98db, a huge improvement on the LP vinyl record which was around 58db without the later compression technology like dbx which was beginning to become popular about the time the CD became available.

The early CD sound was much criticised for its harshness, the explanation being that the sound engineers continued using the same old techniques they'd been used to using with the analog systems which had their own built-in roll-offs and softening effects. I believe there was also a certain harshness introduced by the steep 'brick-wall' filters used in the digital systems. These initial problems have been fixed by oversampling and greater bit depth. I believe DVD Audio is now 24 bit but I think the problems had been fixed without resorting to the greater bit depth. The differences between a well-produced 16 bit audio CD and a 24 bit DVD Audio disc are very subtle as I understand, probably too subtle for my hearing, and certainly require top-end equipment for playback.

I suspect that moving from 12 bit to 14 or 16 bit A/D conversion with relatively small-photosite DSLRs like Canon's is like upgrading from 16 bit audio to 24 bit audio. One struggles to find an improvement.

24bit sound can be subtle - but - just think what a difference it makes to what the mastering engineer can do - it's what I call "production headroom". Remember, we might shoot with a 12 or 14 bit a to d, but we often only see an 8bit representation (ignoring what that one is gamma, one is linear for now). That's our production headroom.

But a 196hz 24bit copy of the mastertape can sound fantastic - with a listen-through clarity and lack of listener fatigue, even with all that extra detail, that CD just doesn't deliver. That's what I'm listening to as I write this forum post, coincidentally.... :-)

Now, when I shot a stouffer test wedge with the MKIII and it's 14bit a to do, it did look to me that there was a couple stop improvement in dynamic range over that of the 20D. I didn't do it fully scientific like I do when I have time, but the sensor did seem to be lower noise, and hence could properly benefit from a better depth a to d.

Greater a to d depth matched by lower noise in the sensor means more dynamic range. That's both easily visible and quantifyable.

As for 16bit backs - without published or tested SNR ratios for the sensor, they're just marketing fluff. Let's see a stepwedge. I don't think their sensor gets close to 96db SNR, but a wedge test would prove me wrong. But you'd need to take two exposures to cover that range as popular test wedges only have a 4.0OD range - or 13.3 stops - not th 16 you'd need to measure properly a 16bit sensor!

Graeme

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« Reply #33 on: October 21, 2007, 10:21:44 AM »
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You can take a well mastered CD from way back when and play it on a modern player and it can sound much improved.
Especially if you coat the outer edge with a green marker - I've been thinking of treating my sensor like that to lower the noise and smooth out the gradients ...  
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« Reply #34 on: October 21, 2007, 10:43:34 AM »
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Especially if you coat the outer edge with a green marker - I've been thinking of treating my sensor like that to lower the noise and smooth out the gradients ... 
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Yes!!!
There was an excellent product targeted for cds with the precisely correct shade of green (complementary color of the red laser-beam), now there might be similar market for painting the high-end camera sensors. You can clearly see (hear) the difference (at least in your wallet)...

Cheers,
J
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #35 on: October 21, 2007, 08:26:00 PM »
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Bit depth has no direct relation to color gamut. If you're having color issues with a DSLR it's far more likely a color management problem than an intrinsic limitation of the camera. Most DSLRs can record colors outside Adobe RGB, well outside what's printable in most cases.
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Well, this might be true, or not.

As far as I know, there are no widespread tests that measure the ability of DSLRs to capture colors accurately at very high or very low illuminations, and most tests focus anyway on the ability to reproduce accurately a narrow range of standard color patches.

1. high illuminations

We know that our DSLR (seen as a black box) are not that great at dealing with subtle differences in illumination near their saturation point. I believe that this impacts their ability to distinguish subtle colors as well.

Whether this is the result of sensor limitations, D/A conversions limitations (including discrete sampling) I am not sure, but I would not exclude the possibility that bit depth (seen as an arbitrary  metrics to represent the quality of D/A conversion) impacts the quality of color in high illuminations.

2. subtle color differences (color resolution)

Now, one topic that should also be discussed a lot more is color quality. Why are some DSLRs (Fuji comes to mind) seen as producing more pleasing colors than others?

In the end the outcome is the same, a RAW file file some values that - within a given color space - translate into colors on the screen or on paper.

Is Fuji only playing with the values after capture, of does their sensor really capture color with more quality (resolution) that say Canon or Nikon? Nobody knows for sure, but my (mostly unbustantiated) belief is that their sensor might be able to capture both more colors (wider gammut), but also to differentiate more subtle color differences. This is another area where there might be a link with bit depth since it would take enough bit depth to differentiate the hues captured by the sensor.

Cheers,
Bernard
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panoak
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« Reply #36 on: October 21, 2007, 10:04:00 PM »
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Well, this might be true, or not.

As far as I know, there are no widespread tests that measure the ability of DSLRs to capture colors accurately at very high or very low illuminations, and most tests focus anyway on the ability to reproduce accurately a narrow range of standard color patches.

1. high illuminations

We know that our DSLR (seen as a black box) are not that great at dealing with subtle differences in illumination near their saturation point. I believe that this impacts their ability to distinguish subtle colors as well.

Whether this is the result of sensor limitations, D/A conversions limitations (including discrete sampling) I am not sure, but I would not exclude the possibility that bit depth (seen as an arbitrary  metrics to represent the quality of D/A conversion) impacts the quality of color in high illuminations.

2. subtle color differences (color resolution)

Now, one topic that should also be discussed a lot more is color quality. Why are some DSLRs (Fuji comes to mind) seen as producing more pleasing colors than others?

In the end the outcome is the same, a RAW file file some values that - within a given color space - translate into colors on the screen or on paper.

Is Fuji only playing with the values after capture, of does their sensor really capture color with more quality (resolution) that say Canon or Nikon? Nobody knows for sure, but my (mostly unbustantiated) belief is that their sensor might be able to capture both more colors (wider gammut), but also to differentiate more subtle color differences. This is another area where there might be a link with bit depth since it would take enough bit depth to differentiate the hues captured by the sensor.

Cheers,
Bernard
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What an awful lot of discussion (and I hope that's all of it!) about this part of the whole process in bringing an image to presentation.  In my little corner, I think I'm looking at all that really matters when I see that an uncompressed TIF, saved from an edited RAW, normally has at least 40% higher color count than a lossless JPG.  I don't have any software that can output and print an edited 16 bit TIF, unless I want to accept the limits of Canon Photo Professional.  
     My point is that unless you spend all that money for a system that can output a finished 16 bit image to the printer, this discussion is almost entirely moot.  Most of us live and print in an 8 bit world, printing somewhere between 600,000 to 1M colors.  The whole discussion of perceived gradients is generally answered by which colors fill that spectrum, from the larger number that were available, before the reduction to 8 bit.  It's generally safe to say that we're seeing one million or less colors in almost all print media.  Beyond that, the brain literally sees what it wants to see, and we would still see the very same thing, whether the color count was 1M or 500B.
     If you want to test everything that the discussion has covered, you would have to use a 64 bit computer, running very carefully selected software, and printed by the Epson R1900, with 18.4 trillion color output.   It shouldn't be that hard to have fun with imaging!
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wildlightphoto
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« Reply #37 on: October 21, 2007, 10:09:24 PM »
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     My point is that unless you spend all that money for a system that can output a finished 16 bit image to the printer, this discussion is almost entirely moot. 

More bits generally means more headroom for processing.
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« Reply #38 on: October 21, 2007, 10:12:46 PM »
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If you want to test everything that the discussion has covered, you would have to use a 64 bit computer, running very carefully selected software, and printed by the Epson R1900, with 18.4 trillion color output.   It shouldn't be that hard to have fun with imaging!
Panoak, what you say is basically true, but keep in mind that lots algorithms are applied to the image and it is there where the 16-bits of info are valuable as you transform this and interpolate that. The end 8-bits outputted will be more accurate if the original data was in 16-bits.

But yes, imaging needs to be fun and enjoyable, otherwise there's no point .
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« Reply #39 on: October 21, 2007, 10:19:49 PM »
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More bits generally means more headroom for processing.
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But it's still the same thing.  It doesn't matter if you started with 16 million or 96 billion colors.  Once you land back in the world of 8 bit, your 600,000 to 1M colors are still all you have, and although the starting number will influence the colors within that range, the result comes down to a difference that is academic, at best.
     The really aggravating thing with all of this is that it's very hard to find equipment and software that enables you to put the higher numbers to the test.  This stuff is all made to satisfy most of the people most of the time, and it does.
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