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Author Topic: Sigma DP1 - Good enough for stock  (Read 8450 times)
neil74
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« on: February 14, 2009, 06:25:10 AM »
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Hello all,

I have a DP1 which I have been shooting alongside my DSLR for the last 6 months, the files are very good and take interpolation wel,l in the first few months I had plenty accepted by alamy.

Recently however this has changed and I have had several batches rejected due to "soft and lacking definition, camera not suitable for alamy" My workflow has not changed and I am wondering if alamy have changed their view on dp1 files? The images are very clean but without interpolation they are small. I really like the camera but if it is unsuitable for stock then it all of a sudden becomes far less useful.

Wondering whether to persevere or sell on?

Feedback from other DP1 (or sd14) owners appreciated.

Neil
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Plekto
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2009, 02:48:27 PM »
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Unfortunately, they are right.  The Sigma/Foveon sensors are in need of a serious upgrade.  They really put out about 4-5MP and that's just not going to compete with the 12-25mp crowd which can literally throw away pixels to smooth out the image and still show more detail than the DP1.

Check out the Fuji S5 Pro - its sensor technology produces very clean results like the DP1.  Very clean, smooth, and good contrast(on-sensor HDR bracket and blending/noise reduction).  Not the highest resolution option out there, but it's very easy to shoot with and get back good results.  Especially outdoors.

Oh - and it easily blows the SD1 away in terms of that "look" that the stock sites would want(sharper, more contrast and definition).  You can get one used for cheap and stick just about any Nikon lens on it as well.  It's not the best camera out there, but it does have huge dynamic range - about 9 stops! - and produces very good shadow detail.  For the price, that is. Obviously, get a used one for $500-$600.  

EDIT - it's a Nikon D200 body, so that's also a good thing.  A typical used D200 isn't nearly as inexpensive, either.  Win-win, IMO.

You can of course go into 12MP high-resolution mode or use your current DSLR and bracket and blend if it's a specific fixed/static shot:
http://luminous-landscape.com/forum/index....p;hl=zero+noise
This will work with any camera, though.  Note how clean the results look.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2009, 02:55:40 PM by Plekto » Logged
james_elliot
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2009, 08:10:59 PM »
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Hi Neil

Well, I am just going to tell you my story about Alamy, and it might show you that your DP1 might not be the problem...

I am using a 1DsMarkII (native 16MPix), professional canon lenses (24-70 f/2.8L and 70-200 f/2.8L IS), a tripod, I am almost always shooting at f/8 and ISO 100, and I am using a RAW convertor (DxO) which is considered as one of the best on the market. My pictures have been used as posters up to 100x70cms and if I don't pretend that they have an artistic quality, I am pretty confident that they are technically good.

I recently submitted four of my shots to Alamy and they came back with "soft or lacking definition".
If you want to see the kind of shot that was rejected look there:
http://www.photo-lovers.org/portfolio/priv...ers/chateau.jpg
I don't claim it's a beauty, but I wouldn't call this as "soft or lacking definition"...

Thus either you need now a MFDB to submit to Alamy or their quality department is drunk half (or most) of the time...    
Seriously, I don't really care about what happened at Alamy, and I didn't try to investigate. I just stopped trying to work with them, but I really think that replacing the camera might not be the answer to your problem...

JMA

Quote from: neil74
Hello all,

I have a DP1 which I have been shooting alongside my DSLR for the last 6 months, the files are very good and take interpolation wel,l in the first few months I had plenty accepted by alamy.

Recently however this has changed and I have had several batches rejected due to "soft and lacking definition, camera not suitable for alamy" My workflow has not changed and I am wondering if alamy have changed their view on dp1 files? The images are very clean but without interpolation they are small. I really like the camera but if it is unsuitable for stock then it all of a sudden becomes far less useful.

Wondering whether to persevere or sell on?

Feedback from other DP1 (or sd14) owners appreciated.

Neil
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Plekto
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« Reply #3 on: February 15, 2009, 01:31:19 AM »
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It looks to me from that photo that they are now worshiping/wanting extreme HDR in a picture(or bracketing).  That's a hard shot for a typical camera - lots of light and dark areas on top of each other.  The Fuji excels at this kind of outdoor shot.

The example looks fine to me, too.  Though, the AF is focusing a few feet forward of the main ruins/walls.  This sort of shot may also requite some focus bracketing as well.
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james_elliot
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« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2009, 04:00:10 AM »
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Thanks for the comments. That's exactly what I would like to hear from Alamy instead of "Soft or lacking definition..."
:-)
JMA


Quote from: Plekto
It looks to me from that photo that they are now worshiping/wanting extreme HDR in a picture(or bracketing).  That's a hard shot for a typical camera - lots of light and dark areas on top of each other.  The Fuji excels at this kind of outdoor shot.

The example looks fine to me, too.  Though, the AF is focusing a few feet forward of the main ruins/walls.  This sort of shot may also requite some focus bracketing as well.
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Rob C
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« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2009, 04:59:26 AM »
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You know, stock is a very misunderstood medium. There is/used to be this idea that you simply sent off your old pics and that was that - the cheques would just roll in. Well, I never did discover that scenario in real life.

I spent many years with the Tony Stone Associates library (later became Getty), probably the best in the business at the time, with Image Bank keeping very close company as did FPG International. I used 35mm Kodachrome, mostly, and did have some success. However, there was always the sense that I should upgrade to 6x6 or 6x7 and the consequential problems associated with increased costs, lack of mobility etc. etc. I had a flirtation with Pictor for a short while and they were adamant that 6x6 should be used, and that 6x7 was even  better. By the time I realised that Papa Alberto did know best, invested in a Pentax 67, the game had already moved on past me and digital and the internet were taking their toll of the old practices.

But the point Im trying to make is this: never assume that stock is an anything goes medium. The requirements were high thirty years ago and they are as high today. Though thousands - no, possibly millions of people now swamp the industry, I would wager that it is still a relatively small number of photographers that makes the necessary investments in time, effort, money and skills that has all the luck. Luck, as in the more seriously that group takes the business, the harder it works, the luckier it gets!

I have no knowledge of Alamy but imagine that they face the same realities as do the top stock people too. With falling prices across the board, why would clients still need to hunt bargain basement?

Rob C
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james_elliot
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« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2009, 12:07:04 PM »
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My point is: I would rather see rejections based on "understandable" comments (even if it is: "no artistic quality")  than on a "Soft or lacking definition" which means nothing and can lead to inaccurate conclusions.

I have been selling images since 1993 (I fondly remember the first one I sold: il was shot with a velvia 50 film and a Pentax SFX-N camera), and the quality of the work of stock photography agencies has been regularly decreasing along with the quality of communication between agencies and photographers. This might not be true for the professionals who have regular and personal contacts, but is very true for "amateurs".

The reason you give is certainly the right one: many photographers, lower prices, lot of competition, etc... And there's probably nothing we can do about it...



Quote from: Rob C
You know, stock is a very misunderstood medium. There is/used to be this idea that you simply sent off your old pics and that was that - the cheques would just roll in. Well, I never did discover that scenario in real life.

I spent many years with the Tony Stone Associates library (later became Getty), probably the best in the business at the time, with Image Bank keeping very close company as did FPG International. I used 35mm Kodachrome, mostly, and did have some success. However, there was always the sense that I should upgrade to 6x6 or 6x7 and the consequential problems associated with increased costs, lack of mobility etc. etc. I had a flirtation with Pictor for a short while and they were adamant that 6x6 should be used, and that 6x7 was even  better. By the time I realised that Papa Alberto did know best, invested in a Pentax 67, the game had already moved on past me and digital and the internet were taking their toll of the old practices.

But the point Im trying to make is this: never assume that stock is an anything goes medium. The requirements were high thirty years ago and they are as high today. Though thousands - no, possibly millions of people now swamp the industry, I would wager that it is still a relatively small number of photographers that makes the necessary investments in time, effort, money and skills that has all the luck. Luck, as in the more seriously that group takes the business, the harder it works, the luckier it gets!

I have no knowledge of Alamy but imagine that they face the same realities as do the top stock people too. With falling prices across the board, why would clients still need to hunt bargain basement?

Rob C
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Johnny_Johnson
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« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2009, 07:42:52 PM »
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Quote from: james_elliot
I recently submitted four of my shots to Alamy and they came back with "soft or lacking definition".
If you want to see the kind of shot that was rejected look there:
http://www.photo-lovers.org/portfolio/priv...ers/chateau.jpg
I don't claim it's a beauty, but I wouldn't call this as "soft or lacking definition"...

Hi James,

It looks to me like something funky is going on with that image.  There a wide halo like it was way over sharpened but yet it does seem a little soft or at least doesn't contain much in the way of fine details.  I'm wondering if the focus was a little off and you tried to compensate by over-sharpening in CS2?

Later,
Johnny
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Johnny Johnson
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« Reply #8 on: February 15, 2009, 11:40:05 PM »
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If you look at it, the problem is that the camera isn't picking up any of the shadows in-between the tiny stones and bits of rubble.  It's a really hard shot to get to look good without a very wide dynamic range film-like media.  What you get instead is black and white next to each other - a very clipped look.  And the focus is off a few feet forward as I noted.  It should be manually tweaked to be at the base of the green ivy.  Because that's where the contrast is making it look the most mosaic-like.

They clearly want it to be overly sharp and defined - like a lithograph.

edit - the sky is also far too blue.  It looks like the color balance was tweaked/made too saturated.  This could also be caused by too low of a dynamic range.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2009, 11:43:57 PM by Plekto » Logged
ndevlin
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« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2009, 06:20:42 AM »
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Yes, they are right. I have not found the DP-1 images to be of serious professional quality, either in resolution or colour rendition. And I say that as a devoted user of small-format cameras.  Too bad - it was a great idea. I just wish Sigma would get it's production head out of its marketing ass and build a serious foveon  to compete is *real* pixels with current dslrs.

- N.
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Nick Devlin   @onelittlecamera
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« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2009, 08:30:04 AM »
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I think Alamy are just looking at the basic data, and 6mp is the smallest they will accept at the moment, so it won't help if your camera has any other traits that improve its resolution beyond 5mp. Rules is rules.

Steve
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neil74
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« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2009, 02:02:45 PM »
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Quote from: 250swb
I think Alamy are just looking at the basic data, and 6mp is the smallest they will accept at the moment, so it won't help if your camera has any other traits that improve its resolution beyond 5mp. Rules is rules.

Steve

I removed the offending file and resubmitted, Alamy accepted them.  I am however thinking of making the DP1 my stitching camera for such a slow camera the useful self-timer/bracket mode makes it very quick for stitched HRD's.

The prices have really dropped on the DP1 so it is hardly worth selling it.
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Plekto
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« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2009, 04:05:00 PM »
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Bracketing and blending and/or stitching of course is a good way to make it work.  But it's a lot easier to just get a good 12-16MP camera.  I recommended the Fuji not because it has high resolution so much as it has the widest dynamic range and uses Nikon lenses as well.(plus it's cheap - like $500 used).  But Circuit City is closing and I've seen 12-16MP cameras going for $500 or so there as well - brand new.  Silly low prices.
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james_elliot
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« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2009, 05:49:25 PM »
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You are an eagle-eye viewer...
The image posted was the last I sent to Alamy and it was really over-sharpened to see what they would tell me. And the answer was: "soft or lacking definition" again.
In fact, I sent the same image with different parameters three times to see if anything would change...
If you want to look at the original just out of the raw converter that I sent first, it is there:
http://www.photo-lovers.org/portfolio/priv...xO_raw_copy.jpg

And if the sky is so blue, it's because I used a polarizing filter, with the sun exactly in the right position...
JMA

Quote from: Johnny_Johnson
Hi James,

It looks to me like something funky is going on with that image.  There a wide halo like it was way over sharpened but yet it does seem a little soft or at least doesn't contain much in the way of fine details.  I'm wondering if the focus was a little off and you tried to compensate by over-sharpening in CS2?

Later,
Johnny
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Plekto
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« Reply #14 on: February 17, 2009, 01:03:38 AM »
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I would have just sent the raw.  It actually looks great.  Dynamic and tonal consistency is often far more important in making a picture look "realistic" than anything else.  Photoshop and other tools seem to leech this out of digital media quite quickly.

The over-sharpening clipped it and turned it into a sort of mosaic.  It's easy to see that as "soft and fuzzy" if you're expecting proper contrast and definition like the raw appears to be.  In the raw, you can see tiny shadows and the grass isn't a blurry mess.(most noticeable defect in the first example, probably leading to their comment) - it looks like it's been focused poorly.

Moral - sometimes it's easier to leave it alone and let it be.
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james_elliot
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« Reply #15 on: February 17, 2009, 02:01:55 AM »
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But I sent the "raw" first... And  it was the first to be rejected with "soft or lacking definition".
Then I decided to try different adjustments (such as oversharpening) to see what would happen, and all shots were rejected with "soft or lacking definition", whatever I tried...
It was something like an experiment to see what kind of black box was answering at Alamy...

Quote from: Plekto
I would have just sent the raw.  It actually looks great.  Dynamic and tonal consistency is often far more important in making a picture look "realistic" than anything else.  Photoshop and other tools seem to leech this out of digital media quite quickly.

The over-sharpening clipped it and turned it into a sort of mosaic.  It's easy to see that as "soft and fuzzy" if you're expecting proper contrast and definition like the raw appears to be.  In the raw, you can see tiny shadows and the grass isn't a blurry mess.(most noticeable defect in the first example, probably leading to their comment) - it looks like it's been focused poorly.

Moral - sometimes it's easier to leave it alone and let it be.
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250swb
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« Reply #16 on: February 17, 2009, 02:48:15 AM »
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The thing is Alamy do not want any sharpening in an ideal world, never mind 'over-sharpening'. Sharpening is something for the client to do depending on the final use of the image. It is accepted that some simple mild default sharpening of the RAW file is OK for image assessment purposes only.

So when they say 'soft or lacking in definition', they are saying 'you've screwed around with the photo, we can see you have, and we've caught you'. Over sharpening, saturating the colour, wide tonal changes, etc all add artifacts which to Alamy's mind create a lack of definition (or at least will do down the line at the clients end), over use of the noise filter, poor lens, OOF, etc all lend themselves to the 'soft' part of the equation.

They do not inspect every single photo in a batch, just perhaps one or two, so some photo's in the wider scheme of things will get through that would otherwise be 'soft or lacking in definition'. But this shouldn't be seen as inconsistency in Alamy's quality control if the photographer is playing the game with a straight bat. So it is up to the photographer to make sure that no sharpening is being applied in camera or to much is being added by default in some sub menu of RAW processing.

Steve
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Plekto
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« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2009, 08:39:46 PM »
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All of that said, If that's as good as the Sigma sensor does and they are rejecting the raws as well, then, yes, you'll likely have hit a resolution "wall" with that firm.  The Foveon sensors are great, but they also are roughly 4.6MP(though real pixels, mind you).  

The conversion factor is 1.5x to simulate a Bayer pattern(best possible for a Bayer pattern is 0.66x in each dimension - or 1.5x versus real pixels/scanned slides/etc) , so that's:
RAW: 2640 x 1760 pixels
2640x1.5=3960
1760x1.5=2640
9.74MP actual resolvable resolution compared to a Bayer sensor pattern.  

If the sites want 16MP+, well, get a cheap 14-16MP Bayer sensor camera and give them loads of pixels in all their moired and overly AA filtered glory.   Or just stitch with the DP1 until it's 4x the native size, or about 5300x3500.  They might open files and toss anything under 4,000 pixels wide, for instance.(which would normally be a 12-14MP threshold)
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250swb
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« Reply #18 on: February 18, 2009, 02:55:46 AM »
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Quote
All of that said, If that's as good as the Sigma sensor does and they are rejecting the raws as well, then, yes, you'll likely have hit a resolution "wall" with that firm
.

Alamy do not accept RAW files despite what James has said, just 48mb (minimum size and at minimum compression) aRGB JPEG.

So it is likely to be a camera or an image processing problem, either trying to make a silk purse out of a sows ear (maybe the DP1 just can't cut it), or the introduction of artifacts along the way (this is down to the photographer). A lightness of hand and a sympathetic eye are needed for processing lower resolution cameras, and you can't use the same settings that are used with DSLR's.

Steve
« Last Edit: February 18, 2009, 02:59:35 AM by 250swb » Logged

neil74
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« Reply #19 on: February 18, 2009, 03:28:24 AM »
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I removed the offending file and they accepted the remaining 4 dp1 files.  All originated as raw files no sharpening applied (DP1 does not need sharpening)

I have not submitted that much to Alamy from the DP1 as that is what my SLR's are for but I always shoot it alongside them and do really like the files.

Despite the success I am thinking of using the DP1 for stitching (where the FL suits) 3-4 verticals stitched gives a 12-16mp foveon image.  The FL of the DP2 may suit stitched panos better but it is looking a little pricey for my liking.
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