Tuesday, May 20, 2008

DP1 low light

Two more low light shots.  One was at asa 800 and the other asa 800 -2EV, so that's somewhere around asa 3200.  I did very little to these, just let SPP develop them.  I did pull middle grey WB from the same place (lighthouse).  It's interesting how the colors are different. 

I see swatches or streaks of green, most obvious in the white painted molding.  As I shoot low light shots with expectations of B&W conversion it makes less difference.

For the B&W I went just about as simple as possible, lowered the saturation.  No other heroics.

All in all not bad at all for a stealthy pocket camera. The DP1 may not do all that well in bench tests.  I'll try to remember that if I get a gig doing bench tests.  For other, real life situations it does pretty darn good.

Monday, May 19, 2008


The dpreview.com review of the DP1 hit the web today and the Sigma forum has been buzzing.  The rating of Above Average was surprising for folks like me who actually enjoy using this camera and thought it might be higher.  Some of the reasoning / explanation was suspect but after some thought about it I figure they're right.

We are all anxious to have approval for the decisions we make, validation I suppose is the buzz word.  But.  When I think about it, I would never make a large time and $$$ decision based upon what web sites write.  None of the photographers I know would either.  So who does, and what are they looking to discover in a review.  I imagine it's bench tests, comparison images, technical info and conclusions.  This is where reviewers shine.  They know their market.  Their market has complained long and hard about missing shots due to shutter lag (slow focus) and slow write times.  To have a new camera bring these exact same things to them just won't do. 

This camera brings back a feeling of quality in images that is becoming lost.  I get the most enjoyment from my old folding cameras.  Medium format with outstanding 4 element german glass and all of the modern conveniences of the 1940's (none).  They don't even take batteries.  They're nothing at all except IQ

In 1971 after saving for over a year I bought a brand new Nikon F.  It has a center weighted meter with a needle showing in the viewfinder.  Completely mechanical except for the light meter I used it for 30 years.  Now my digital Nikon does everything from focus to shutter setting to auto iso etc etc and shoots 10 or so RAW images rapid fire.  If I'm missing a shot I'm just not facing the right way.  The images it produces when manipulated slightly are wonderful. As proof I point to the 5 star images I have cataloged by Apple's Aperture.  I bought the DP1 because I was hoping it would be like the Nikon in a small package and indeed it is.  The user functionality I expected is perhaps more like the film Nikon and surprisingly so is the image quality.  So it is like the Nikon in a small body but the old Nikon.

Someone in one of the forum threads mentioned that there is more to a camera than IQ.  It doesn't really matter if the writer was serious, it's a great question.  I think the answer is situational and photographer dependent.  Action shots, while life goes on all around, An "OK" IQ in a great users camera is perfect.  Other times though it's all about the IQ.  Spend thousands on glass and use the equivalent of expired film???  Nope!

As an example.  I made a photo book of a week spent with the grand daughters. Aperture makes this quite easy and the result was wonderful.  Now I've started to pull together my 5 stars, looking to make another book.  After several weeks with the DP1 though I'm just not happy with altogether too many of them.  The IQ on digital just wasn't there.  I didn't see that clearly because my images are either DSLR or film which is scanned and digitized.

The DP1 reminds me of what I've been missing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

DP1 a return to film

As I was without my DP1 for a week I had the opportunity to study some of my previous images and try to understand what it is about this camera that impresses me so.

Being what is called an "Early adopter" I am prone to look favorably on new technological gadgets.  The idea of a large sensor in a small silent body is worthy of my support and the lens is a very pleasant surprise.  Still, given the slowness between shots of this camera, and the slowness to focus (in low light I'm not able to use the manual focus well at all) the bloom should be off the rose by now.  It's not.  Rather I am finding myself more enamored of it.

I believe that what I have identified as it's ability to deal with subtleties is in fact quite reminiscent of film.  I have never had the time or the money to get good at color darkroom work.  I have had some opportunities to experiment and i have been fortunate to have had associates who I consider good.  The quality I have come to expect from color film, slides and also negative, is just not evident in digital.  Sorry, it just isn't.  Where with film I would see a certain number of distinct subtle tones / colors, with digital I see several less.  The colors I see are in fact well (over?) saturated and so the image just jumps into your eyes.  Scanned film on home scanners is very good, but not great.  I for one could never afford to have my negatives / slides professionally scanned and so I have learned to dial up the saturation a bit...or do a large radius USM.

With this new DP1 I am seeing many many more shades.  This is quite exciting.

I think that just as film and digital are in fact different mediums, so this camera is a different medium from my other digital cameras, somewhat closer to film.

While I was waiting for my DP1's return I had a chance to look at some low light images again.  

The first image was shot at ASA 800 (1/4 sec at f4).
The next image was ASA800 -2ev (1/13 at f4)

For each image I let SPP do it's magic in Auto mode. I found that I liked the image better with less saturation so i dialed in a -0.3 and 0.2 respectively.  I looked for neutral gray on the wing of the carved bird upper left of the image.  I can see that there is a difference in color rendition, probably the result of the exposure difference.

Once again, these are not 5 star images and other than the above no adjustments were made.

All in all not too bad

DP1 and Dust part 2

DHL was at my door this morning with a new DP1.  Considering I sent it regular mail last Friday afternoon the service is great.  (I spent my money on insurance rather than faster delivery).

I notice they sent me a brand new camera.

Thank you Sigma.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

DP1 & Dust

                                   A-10 & Dust 1
                                   A-10 & dust 2
                                   Ospreys & Dust

During a walk along the Sound the other day I noticed an eagle, a pair of ospreys and an A-10 overhead at different times.  As a result I spent a good deal of time looking closely at the resulting images at 100% and there it was, dust.  Didn't expect it, don't know how it got there but....  As I haven't found the right belt-loop case for my DP1 I tend to carry it in a shirt pocket. Perhaps that's where the dust came from.  Large blob upper right of image, few other very small spots.

The good news is that an e-mail to Sigma brought a quick response, from a real person, who offered to fix it right away.  You just gotta love it when an e-mail comes from a real person. Quite often I read the disclaimer at the end of an e-mail telling me it cannot be replied to.

The bad news is that I'm without my DP1 until it's returned.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

DP1 and Nikon D-80 compare

I know that this type of comparison is always open to interpretation but sometimes it just presents itself.  I planted some flowers a week ago and photographed them with the DP-1.  I liked the results very much.  

Then I decided to test the upsizing methods at my disposal, Aperture, CS-3 and the printing program Qimage.  I cropped the images and upsized to 600 DPI tiff's.  I found that both Aperture and Qimage produced very similar images and that each was superior to the CS-3 image.  I am certain that there are other ways to work CS-3 and that this was a quick trial.  However, the job was easiest in Aperture and there's something to say about easy if it produces great results.

Then today I was looking at the same plant and had my Nikon D-80 in hand.  I dialed in the same settings as the DP-1 shot (focal length, f stop, iso, white balance).  I noticed that the shutter speed was faster on the Nikon shot (1/125 vs 1/80) so it must have been brighter today.  The colors are different.  I guess the flower didn't like being transplanted too much.  I think it will recover though.

The Nikon image, (upsized to 600 DPI) is quite good technically.  The DP-1 image though is great.  I guess the color change impacts that somehow.  Blue more crisp than red?  But!  Reviewers of the DP-1 are all in lockstep in chiding Sigma for claiming 14mp from their 4.6mp chip.  I would expect the DP-1 image to be running as fast as it can to keep up with the supburb 10mp Nikon image, not the other way around.  Any way I look at it, the results of this test go to Sigma.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

DP1 subtle colors

This camera does an excellent job with subtle colors, tones, shadows.  I continue to be very impressed.  This is along the Atlantic coast as a spring storm approached.  It very quickly got quite exhilarating!

Viewing this file with the RAW developer the low cloud in the upper left really stands out. There is enough mid contrast to make the cloud seem almost 3-D.  The feeling is that of almost being there.  This dimensionality converts well to 16bit tiff but I notice a slight lessening in the jpeg file.  Unfortunately I am unable to upload the tiff file to this blog.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

The Blues and Negative Fill Light

These images are of Craig Caffall, a blues performer recently from the Bay Area.  I am a big fan of the blues.  I am also a big fan of wide angle lenses.  The two do go together.  

I was anxious to try the DP1 in a Blues Joint and shot these images in the Highway 99 Club in Seattle.  Information is pretty generic, asa400, flash, 1/200 second exposure.  What's interesting to me is how the negative fill light works here.  First it darkens and obscures the background and then gives a highlight effect to the performer. 

The images obviously need more work, perhaps I'll work on them later.  Took just a few seconds to pull these images out...and so I can go back to shooting.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Black&White Photography with the DP1

This nondescript image is of a building in Tacoma WA on an overcast afternoon.  I converted to B&W by changing the SPP software's White Balance to MONOCHROME.  Then I fiddled with the sliders, contrast, exposure & highlights until I liked the way it looked on my monitor.  Finally I tried different amounts of Fill Light, both positive and negative.  

The positive fill light image (a lot of fill light) is reminiscent of HDR images with a great deal of light smoothing.  The negative fill light is interesting, harder to describe.  It seems to bring a bit of smudge vignetting quality.  This will require more trials.  At first it put me in mind of  old B&W movies.

Friday, May 2, 2008

DP1 B&W, DP1 Low Light

No camera does very well in extreme low light situations, except for the Nikon D-3 so I hear. The noise characteristics of the DP1 are quite different from my Nikon D-80.  Rather than increasing film grain like appearance the DP1 seems to display horizontal bands of green swatches.  I wonder if this is a characteristic of this Foveon chip or if my camera needs repair. 

In actual application this isn't a big problem though as my intentions for low light are almost always monochrome images...or something approaching monochrome.

The other side of the coin is that I am able to unobtrusively photograph with the DP1, something I am unable to do with a DSLR.  The DP1 is a great stealth camera.

The above photographs were taken during a visit to the eye doctor.  It was so dark for the second image that I was unable to read the mode setting on the camera...that's dark.  It was also quiet with the doctor observing and dictating findings to her assistant.  Obviously I couldn't use the D-80 so this is a shot I wouldn't have gotten at all without the DP1.

Thursday, May 1, 2008


These 2 images were prepared using different tools.  The first was processed in SPP with the Fill Light and Highlight sliders moved right.  The second is an HDR (tonemapped) from 3 exposures, 0, +1 and -1 ev.  This image was processed with Photomatix Pro v3.0.  I attempted to get acceptable information from the foreground, shadow areas and also to bring out the colors I saw in the sky.  It's a bit overdone but....

I'm not a big fan of HDR and in fact have found it to be a lot of trouble for a non acceptable result in the past.  I have been able to make 2 or 3 acceptable HDR images with my Nikon D-80 but that was out of perhaps 50 or 60 different trials.  The concept of HDR is quite exciting, dramatically increase the effective range of a digital camera.  I have a problem however with the overdone, cartoonish, colors and the overall "Grunge" look to the finished product.  I think it's possible to minimize the ill effects and still gain something from the process but the margin between no effect and too much effect is painfully narrow, sometimes non existent. 

I also have the idea that there is an effect I would like to see applied to faces, my all time favorite subject.  The problem here is to get 3 or more images which are identical except for exposure.  Seems an impossibility.  

Enter SPP and the Fill Light slider.  I am thinking that there is a quasi HDR look to the + side of the slider.  Again it's a small margin between not enough and too much but the process happens on a single image.

More to come.

Fill Light experimenting

I have been experimenting a bit with fill light, positive and negative.  Each has an interesting impact on the images.  These shots of a sunset were processed with SPP.  The +.4 fill light image was the first one and done in the Auto mode.  I ran the Fill Light setting back to 0 for the neutral image and further moved it to the left for the - image.  About 0.9 it looked pretty good on the monitor so I added a border and text and downloaded a small jpeg to this blog.  Next up I will try some tonemapping (HDR).