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Author Topic: Mini Medium Format Shootout  (Read 31241 times)
bjanes
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« Reply #140 on: November 24, 2010, 05:08:01 PM »
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I've never been to Stouffer Wedge. Is is pretty this time of year, or should I wait till Spring? That's when Adams made most of his best shots there, if I remember his biography correctly.
- N.

You can wait 'til spring if you want, but Ansel would probably make test exposures is he were alive today and using digital. In The Negavive, he describes a series of exposures and developments he did with B&W negative film and evaluation with a densitometer. A prudent digital photographer should do the same. A Stouffer wedge is a convenient way to do this with a single exposure. Or, you can keep your head in the sand  Smiley Smiley Smiley

Regards,

Bill
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #141 on: November 25, 2010, 12:01:40 AM »
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Hi,

The comparison done by Nick and Mark indicate that P40 and then 645D are in the same territory regarding image quality. This is nice for anyone needing MF quality at Nikon D3X price. In addition Nick has found that old Pentax 645 lenses work well on the 645D, and those are available at a low price on Ebay. This is actually quite impressive!

So it seems that the P645 is a good alternative for the discerning photographer without a thick wallet, or anyone looking for an alternative to DSLRs with larger image size.

The pixel pitch on the 645 is similar to the D3X, so the Pentax has no advantage from large pixels and does not make a lower demand on the lenses at the pixel level, but many pixels always help.

We had another discussion somewhere else on this forum about DR, personally I'd suggest that DR is a bit overrated, partly because it heavily affects DxO-marks but also because it is frequently used to explain differences. In my view we have plenty of DR with digital. Highlight clipping is something else, but it is more related to proper exposure. Some cameras may leave more margin than others. The high DR figures reported on DxO-mark are achieved primarily by reducing readout noise. My opinion is that noise is normally dominated by "shot-noise" and the readout noise is pretty irrelevant at least in normal photography at low ISOs.

I have downloaded sample RAW images from Phase One P65+ from Phase One's website and was really impressed by the detail that could be extracted from the shadows. Phase had a similar image shot with a Canon 1DsIII. No question the Phase image was much better. D3X may have been significantly better than Canon, I don't know.

As said many times before, we really need prints to make good comparisons. Having RAW images for download is a great service.

My understanding is so far:

  • The content of the image is more important than the execution.
  • Stunning photographs can be made with any decent equipment, or at least any equipment up the task
  • A better system may help with image quality in prints.
  • Higher resolution allows for larger prints.
  • MFDBs lack AA-filter. This improves perceived sharpness. AA-filtered images need more aggressive sharpening which increases noise
  • Lack of AA-filtering leads to artifacts, but it seems that it matters little in real world images. Stopping down to f/11 or beyond seems to take care of color moiré, based on Lloyd Chambers findings on the Leica S2.

Actually, I'm slightly interested in the 645D. I have a lot of Pentax 67 lenses which I think could be used with an adapter. The price of the 645 is something I could afford, if I really wanted.

On the other hand:

  • I don't print larger than A2, and found that APS-C is perfectly OK for that size. So my full frame DSLR is good enough for my printing and may have some reserves
  • I'm pretty much in using zooms and having a lot of lenses. I'm not really sure that i would like to go back to fixed focals

Someone suggested that taking part in a PODAS workshop is a great idea to find out more about medium format. It is also something I am considering.

Best regards
Erik

You can wait 'til spring if you want, but Ansel would probably make test exposures is he were alive today and using digital. In The Negavive, he describes a series of exposures and developments he did with B&W negative film and evaluation with a densitometer. A prudent digital photographer should do the same. A Stouffer wedge is a convenient way to do this with a single exposure. Or, you can keep your head in the sand  Smiley Smiley Smiley

Regards,

Bill

« Last Edit: November 25, 2010, 12:21:21 AM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #142 on: November 25, 2010, 09:14:53 AM »
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My understanding is so far:

  • The content of the image is more important than the execution.
  • Stunning photographs can be made with any decent equipment, or at least any equipment up the task
  • A better system may help with image quality in prints.
  • Higher resolution allows for larger prints.
  • MFDBs lack AA-filter. This improves perceived sharpness. AA-filtered images need more aggressive sharpening which increases noise
  • Lack of AA-filtering leads to artifacts, but it seems that it matters little in real world images. Stopping down to f/11 or beyond seems to take care of color moiré, based on Lloyd Chambers findings on the Leica S2.


Hi Erik,

That seems like a fair summary. On the subject of AA-filters, there seems to be quite a bit of general ignorance (not with you) going round, also witnessed by some comments in this thread.

Aliasing is evil, period. It is an unwelcome artifact. Large amounts of money and effort are spent in various industries to avoid it, e.g. sound engineering and other signal processing settings. All discrete sampling at regular intervals will produce aliasing when there is finer detail than the sampling aperture and interval can resolve unambiguously. For that, more than 2 samples per cycle are required to avoid aliasing. More oversampling will help to improve the result even further.

There are several reasons why one may get away with one's aliased output, but without preventitive measures there will always be aliasing present. We can do several things to reduce the risk of it showing as a clearly visible artifact. By understanding the mechanisms in play, we can optimize the situation in our advantage. In general we need to reduce the amplitude of the aliasing component in our images, and that is only possible before it occurs.

MF camera's in general have some characteristics that can help to reduce the risk of aliasing, but they are not immune to the issue. In fact the absence of an AA-filter (optical low-pass filter, OLPF, for lowering the amplitude of aliasing) increases the risk, as e.g. fashion photographers know only too well.

Characteristics that do help are for instance the (>33%) higher on-sensor magnification for a given FOV when compared to e.g. 24x36mm sensors. By imaging fine detail larger, it is less likely to be smaller than the Nyquist frequency beyond which aliasing occurs. The lower spatial frequencies of the subject matter will also generate a higher MTF response, and thus create a stronger signal to overpower aliasing.

Other helpful factors are less DOF, or more diffraction. Less DOF than with smaller sensor arrays will automatically mean more OOF detail. OOF detail will lose some of its higher spatial frequency content amplitude, and defocus thus acts as an OLPF of sorts. A somewhat similar effect can be achieved by closing down the aperture far enough to generate visible diffraction blur at the pixel level. The higher on-sensor magnification and larger number of pixels will allow to create output with less magnification, so the blur introduced this way won't be as noticeable.

Larger files make it a bit easier to attempt and hide the aliasing in postprocessing, although this will always mean that real resolution is sacrificed, because signal and aliasing cannot be separated once their signals are merged. Some loss of resolution is more acceptable when one has some to spare ...

So, attributing the choice of manufacturers to include AA-filters to attempt and avoid public outcry is too simple an explanation. The outcry should be the same for MF users who spent a lot more money on their equipment, if it were not for some mitigating circumstances as outlined above. What's more, cost of large AA filters is exponentially higher as size increases. Try finding Lithium Niobate filters with an adequate (>60mm) diameter to cover an MF sensor array, and you will see. Growing, cutting, polishing,and assembling 2 of those crystal layers is hard. It will be much more expensive than adding a more acceptable size LCD on the MF backs. Again, manufacturers exploit the probability that there are more tethered shooters with MF backs, so they can save a few dimes on a decent LCD for judging sharpness. There is no doubt that they will certainly avoid AA-filters for cost reasons, if they already do it for LCDs.

The absence of AA-filters on most MF sensor arrays is a costsaver for manufacturers, and there are some circumstances why they can get away with it. Unfortunately for fashion photographers, they need to shoot their subjects in focus, and from some distance, which makes it a bad scenario to avoid a lot of damage control/postprocessing.

Cheers,
Bart
« Last Edit: November 25, 2010, 11:18:15 AM by BartvanderWolf » Logged
Ray
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« Reply #143 on: November 25, 2010, 08:53:23 PM »
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Aliasing is evil, period. It is an unwelcome artifact. Large amounts of money and effort are spent in various industries to avoid it, e.g. sound engineering and other signal processing settings. All discrete sampling at regular intervals will produce aliasing when there is finer detail than the sampling aperture and interval can resolve unambiguously. For that, more than 2 samples per cycle are required to avoid aliasing. More oversampling will help to improve the result even further.

There are several reasons why one may get away with one's aliased output, but without preventitive measures there will always be aliasing present. We can do several things to reduce the risk of it showing as a clearly visible artifact. By understanding the mechanisms in play, we can optimize the situation in our advantage. In general we need to reduce the amplitude of the aliasing component in our images, and that is only possible before it occurs.

MF camera's in general have some characteristics that can help to reduce the risk of aliasing, but they are not immune to the issue. In fact the absence of an AA-filter (optical low-pass filter, OLPF, for lowering the amplitude of aliasing) increases the risk, as e.g. fashion photographers know only too well.

Characteristics that do help are for instance the (>33%) higher on-sensor magnification for a given FOV when compared to e.g. 24x36mm sensors. By imaging fine detail larger, it is less likely to be smaller than the Nyquist frequency beyond which aliasing occurs. The lower spatial frequencies of the subject matter will also generate a higher MTF response, and thus create a stronger signal to overpower aliasing.

Other helpful factors are less DOF, or more diffraction. Less DOF than with smaller sensor arrays will automatically mean more OOF detail. OOF detail will lose some of its higher spatial frequency content amplitude, and defocus thus acts as an OLPF of sorts. A somewhat similar effect can be achieved by closing down the aperture far enough to generate visible diffraction blur at the pixel level. The higher on-sensor magnification and larger number of pixels will allow to create output with less magnification, so the blur introduced this way won't be as noticeable.

Larger files make it a bit easier to attempt and hide the aliasing in postprocessing, although this will always mean that real resolution is sacrificed, because signal and aliasing cannot be separated once their signals are merged. Some loss of resolution is more acceptable when one has some to spare ...

So, attributing the choice of manufacturers to include AA-filters to attempt and avoid public outcry is too simple an explanation. The outcry should be the same for MF users who spent a lot more money on their equipment, if it were not for some mitigating circumstances as outlined above. What's more, cost of large AA filters is exponentially higher as size increases. Try finding Lithium Niobate filters with an adequate (>60mm) diameter to cover an MF sensor array, and you will see. Growing, cutting, polishing,and assembling 2 of those crystal layers is hard. It will be much more expensive than adding a more acceptable size LCD on the MF backs. Again, manufacturers exploit the probability that there are more tethered shooters with MF backs, so they can save a few dimes on a decent LCD for judging sharpness. There is no doubt that they will certainly avoid AA-filters for cost reasons, if they already do it for LCDs.

The absence of AA-filters on most MF sensor arrays is a costsaver for manufacturers, and there are some circumstances why they can get away with it. Unfortunately for fashion photographers, they need to shoot their subjects in focus, and from some distance, which makes it a bad scenario to avoid a lot of damage control/postprocessing.


Bart,
That's a very clear explanation of the issue. Thanks for that. (However, I think some folks might argue that a little bit of 'evil' sometimes adds spice  Grin  ).

I notice that people quite frequently make the comment that one can take worthwhile pictures whatever the camera that is used. That is of course undoubtedly true, but it's really so obvious that it hardly needs mentioning.

Some people were producing marvelous pictures long before the camera was even invented, and some of these pictures are prized far more highly than any photograph that I know of.

There's a well-known photographer on the internet who claims to earn his livelihood from his website, who once made the comment that 'the camera doesn't matter'. Now what's his name? Err! err!... you know I just can't think of it. Let me do an internet search.......ah! Ken Rockwell.

He had a valid point, as long as you didn't take it too literally.
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #144 on: November 26, 2010, 12:51:19 AM »
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Bart,

Just to put things in perspective. There was an article here on Luminous Landscape on the price of the Canon 1Ds, stating that an aliasing filter of full frame dimension did cost around 1000 US$ at that time. The Mamiya ZD had an optional AA-filter. I think it cost about 2000 $ above the alternative IR filter. For sure, prices must have gone down since (the Sony Alpha 850 has an OLP filter and costs around 2000 $). But it's certainly not a cheap part.

Another question, the "staircase effect" we always see on diagonal structures. Would you call that an aliasing artifact?

Best regards
Erik

Hi Erik,


The absence of AA-filters on most MF sensor arrays is a costsaver for manufacturers, and there are some circumstances why they can get away with it. Unfortunately for fashion photographers, they need to shoot their subjects in focus, and from some distance, which makes it a bad scenario to avoid a lot of damage control/postprocessing.

Cheers,
Bart
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #145 on: November 26, 2010, 05:34:40 AM »
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Another question, the "staircase effect" we always see on diagonal structures. Would you call that an aliasing artifact?

Hi Erik,

It's related. It's not aliasing as such, which would add lower frequency aliases to a given feature, but it does show that an analog/continuous transition in the real scene snaps in place between pixel columns and/or rows because inadequate low-pass filtering took place. The use of microlenses (which is not the same as an OLPF) can mitigate the effect, because the sampling aperture size is increased. Point sampling will show more stairstepping than a 100% fill factor area sampling. So sensor design also plays a role in generating stairstepping artifacts. That's why OLPFs need to be tuned to the sensor array for which they are intended. The different thicknesses of the birefringent layers and their relative spacing from the sensor (which also means that the angle of incidence plays a role) are all factors in the design.

So stairstepping is more a telltale sign of insufficient low-pass filtering, and you can be sure that other areas are affected as well, with aliasing. Again, having lots of pixels will help to conceal the artifacts (stairstepped edges and lines are artifacts), so MF backs have some benefit because the artifacts will be smaller (less output magnification required) in output, and create a (fake) impression of sharpness. The same thing can happen if you push the sharpening a bit too far, smooth lines can become stairstepped, but aliases will not form (although deconvolution sharpening can generate ringing artifacts, which is something different).

Cheers,
Bart
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Dick Roadnight
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« Reply #146 on: November 26, 2010, 05:45:02 AM »
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Hi Erik,
Point sampling will show more stairstepping than a 100% fill factor area sampling.
Cheers,
Bart
Hi, Bart...

Does this mean that you get more stair-stepping with a multi-shot back?
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BartvanderWolf
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« Reply #147 on: November 26, 2010, 06:20:34 AM »
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Hi, Bart...

Does this mean that you get more stair-stepping with a multi-shot back?

Hi Dick,

Depending on the implementation (full sensel stepping for per sensel RGB color, or half sensel stepping for additionally increased resolution), probably less stair-stepping in both cases.

First: The sampling density increases which reduces aliasing and increases the signal accuracy,
Second: The sampling apertures may overlap (at half sensel stepping), so less of a point sample and more like a larger fill factor,
Third: You can get more pixels (at half sensel stepping) which helps conceal the stairstepping by reducing output magnification.

More sensels and/or more accurate sensels, is usually beneficial for image quality on multiple levels.

Cheers,
Bart
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Mark D Segal
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« Reply #148 on: November 27, 2010, 02:56:10 PM »
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Bart,

Just to put things in perspective. There was an article here on Luminous Landscape on the price of the Canon 1Ds, stating that an aliasing filter of full frame dimension did cost around 1000 US$ at that time. The Mamiya ZD had an optional AA-filter. I think it cost about 2000 $ above the alternative IR filter. For sure, prices must have gone down since (the Sony Alpha 850 has an OLP filter and costs around 2000 $). But it's certainly not a cheap part.

Another question, the "staircase effect" we always see on diagonal structures. Would you call that an aliasing artifact?

Best regards
Erik


I'd like to know the ORIGINAL source of that information, because I'm not convinced it makes sense, and there is extremely little information in the public domain about the costs of individual components within these cameras.
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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tsjanik
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« Reply #149 on: November 27, 2010, 03:39:39 PM »
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Here's a place which will replace the AA filter in a 1Ds II for $600.  Aps-c is $400.
Labor included.

http://www.lifepixel.com/shop/cart.php?m=product_detail&p=64
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #150 on: November 27, 2010, 03:39:49 PM »
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Hi,

Thanks for asking...

The price for the OLP filter on the Canon 1Ds was estimated in an article here on Luminous Landscape defending the high price of the EOS 1Ds. The Mamiya prices were essentially taken from the ZD price list. The IR filter was about 1000 USD and the OLP filter was around 3000 USD making the difference about 2000 USD. That was a few years ago, at that time I was much interested in the ZD.

Doing a quick research I came up with:

The article on Canon I was referring to is here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/1ds/1Ds-Pricing.shtml

I found the the following price on BH Photovideo for ZD OLP filter: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/507931-REG/Mamiya_310_222_Low_Pass_Filter_for.html

So the ZD OLP end user price is 2894USD while the IR filter is 435 USD.

The Mamiya prices are obviously end user prices.

Best regards
Erik

I'd like to know the ORIGINAL source of that information, because I'm not convinced it makes sense, and there is extremely little information in the public domain about the costs of individual components within these cameras.
« Last Edit: November 27, 2010, 03:43:04 PM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

Mark D Segal
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« Reply #151 on: November 28, 2010, 02:01:10 AM »
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Hi,

Thanks for asking...

The price for the OLP filter on the Canon 1Ds was estimated in an article here on Luminous Landscape defending the high price of the EOS 1Ds. The Mamiya prices were essentially taken from the ZD price list. The IR filter was about 1000 USD and the OLP filter was around 3000 USD making the difference about 2000 USD. That was a few years ago, at that time I was much interested in the ZD.

Doing a quick research I came up with:

The article on Canon I was referring to is here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/cameras/1ds/1Ds-Pricing.shtml

I found the the following price on BH Photovideo for ZD OLP filter: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/507931-REG/Mamiya_310_222_Low_Pass_Filter_for.html

So the ZD OLP end user price is 2894USD while the IR filter is 435 USD.

The Mamiya prices are obviously end user prices.

Best regards
Erik


Thanks Erik, for my likings, I would have preferred that they had saved the money and let us deal with the occasional episode of moire in other ways. But that's history, hindsight and hypothetical, for FWIW........:-)
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Mark D Segal (formerly MarkDS)
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ErikKaffehr
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« Reply #152 on: November 28, 2010, 02:57:51 AM »
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Mark,

I have no firm opinion on this. Even if a medium format OLPF is expensive I'd suggest that MFDB buyers would be able to afford them, would they be regarded necessary.

For me there is no clear evidence. I have seen very few examples comparing the same optical system with/without OLP filter. Madmax has a few samples but they are all JPEG. Lloyd Chambers has a comparison of Leica S2 and Nikon D3X where the Leica has a definitive advantage in sharpness but also a lot of moiré. Now, how much depends on the lens and how much on depends on the OLP?

Lloyd also found that stopping down the Leica S2 to f/11 by and large eliminates moiré. That really indicates that an optimal OLP filter on the Leica S2 would correspond to diffraction at f/11.

On the other hand, if we check the lens tests at "Photozone" we can see that the best lenses reach maximum performance at f/4 and loose sharpness well before f/8, even on OLP filtered cameras. So, even if OLPF filtering does reduce sharpness it does not mask the diffraction effects at f/4.

Achieving correct focus at f/4 without live view is no easy task, I believe.

To sum it up:
  • I have not seen a really conclusive comparison of two identical optical systems with/without LP filter (except the Madmax semples).
  • What would the difference be in correctly sharpened RAW images? An OLP filtered image needs more sharpening than an unfiltered image.
  • No doubt that Leica S2 images are sharper than Nikon D3X images, but that may also depend on better lenses.
  • Erwin Puts compares Leica S2, M9, Nikon D3X and the Sony Alpha 900 here: http://www.imx.nl/photo/leica/camera/page176/s2part4.html . I don't pretend that I always understand Erwin Puts's argumentation. Anyway he ranks the cameras S2, D3X, Alpha 900 and M9 for "definition". My understanding is that the comparison is based on raw images and critical focusing under lab conditions. The impression I got from the samples may differ.
  • Michael Reichmann has both M9 and Sony Alpha 900 and ranks the M9 above the Alpha 900 regarding image quality. This contradicts Erwin Puts findings. Michael Reichmann also contributes the image quality advantage of the M9 over the Alpha 900 to the lack of OLP-filter on the M9.
  • Signal processing experts seem to be of the firm opinion that either oversampling or OLPFs are needed to avoid aliasing artifacts.
  • On the other hand photographers seem to be quite happy about said artifacts as long as it is not visible as color moiré.
  • Aliasing will only show up on perfectly focused images and only at large apertures on small pitch sensors, like the P645D.

A small comment about the Erwin Puts article: Erwin's reasoning is not always easy to follow. Regarding the presence of Moiré on the M9 and it's absence on the S2 I'm pretty sure that he drew the wrong conclusion for the wrong reason. Moiré appears when there is an interference between the sensor pitch and the spacing of a regular pattern. The imaging scale on the S2 is different from the M9, therefore Moiré is not seen.

Here is some analysis I tried to do on images taken by Lloyd Chambers and use with his kind permission.
http://echophoto.dnsalias.net/ekr/index.php/photoarticles/38-observations-on-leica-s2-raw-images

Best regards
Erik

Thanks Erik, for my likings, I would have preferred that they had saved the money and let us deal with the occasional episode of moire in other ways. But that's history, hindsight and hypothetical, for FWIW........:-)
« Last Edit: November 28, 2010, 04:47:56 AM by ErikKaffehr » Logged

PierreVandevenne
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« Reply #153 on: November 28, 2010, 12:43:14 PM »
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Nice analysis Erik. An alternate title could be "Who stole my six stops?"  Roll Eyes
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bjanes
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« Reply #154 on: November 28, 2010, 07:32:21 PM »
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Nice analysis Erik. An alternate title could be "Who stole my six stops?"  Roll Eyes

+1

And I think that Erik was merely using the JPEGs that Diglloyd posted. Analysis of the raw files might show an even greater advantage for the D3x photographic DR, which is clearly greater. The six f/stop claim in not credible. As expected, the Leica images are sharper due to more megapixels and the use of of a US $5000 Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 ASPH Lens versus the $455 Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D Lens. Nonetheless, the D3x does pretty well, especially with deconvolution sharpening to restore sharpness lost by the blur filter.

Regards,

Bill
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bjanes
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« Reply #155 on: November 28, 2010, 07:41:24 PM »
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For me there is no clear evidence. I have seen very few examples comparing the same optical system with/without OLP filter. Madmax has a few samples but they are all JPEG.

Erik,

An excellent review and summation. Maxmax does show some results for the Nikon D700, but they are merely JPEG screen captures. In an attempt to see what deconvolution sharpening could do, I used FocusMagic with a 2 pixel radius and amount of 100%. The results are shown and comments are welcome.

Regards,

Bill

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« Reply #156 on: November 28, 2010, 10:22:04 PM »
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Hi,

I actually used the raw images. Lloyd has a few available for download.

Best regards
Erik


+1

And I think that Erik was merely using the JPEGs that Diglloyd posted. Analysis of the raw files might show an even greater advantage for the D3x photographic DR, which is clearly greater. The six f/stop claim in not credible. As expected, the Leica images are sharper due to more megapixels and the use of of a US $5000 Summarit-S 70mm f/2.5 ASPH Lens versus the $455 Nikon AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D Lens. Nonetheless, the D3x does pretty well, especially with deconvolution sharpening to restore sharpness lost by the blur filter.

Regards,

Bill
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