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M8 hideous unusable high ISO performance thread

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Dear M8 users,

as a true fan of my little camera and an avid reader of M8 related discussions and reviews I have stumbled upon negative comments regarding the high ISO performance numerous times.

 

Mostly they go along the lines of "don't go above 160/320/640, as it becomes really unusable", "looks like my webcam", "terrible ISO performance" etc.

 

I think it is time to dedicate a thread showing those horrible images at higher ISO...

 

My rules:

- I said HIGH ISO, so no images below 1250 (have a look at the flickr M8 mid to high iso group, haha)

- noise reduction (luminance should be mentioned, color is OK)

- used raw converter should be mentioned

- ISO value readily visible would be really useful

- motive doesn't have to be mindblowing, as this thread is really about ISO performance

 

To evaluate the ISO values when pushing in post I suggest the following table:

 

ISO | f-stops above ISO160

1250 | 3.0

1800 | 3.5

2500 | 4.0

3500 | 4.5

5000 | 5.0

 

I know that there will be some noise and some reduction of dynamic range and it might be problematic to print at 3 by 2 miles, but let's see what you come up with.

 

To start with I show some images that were deliberately underexposed and then pushed in LR 5.7, no luminance noise reduction, color noise as necessary, slight sharpening, own color profile.

All images were recorded at base ISO 160 with the 14bit RAW mode.

 

PS: My monitors are crappy, ancient and uncalibrated, so have mercy if the colors are wonky

Both don't even show the same colors. I prefer the left one... (Fujitsu Siemens B17-2 x 2)

Edited by bla

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...and second batch. Lenses used were Summicron-C 40/2 and Color Heliar 75/2.5

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FWIW I never change the ISO setting on my cameras from base of 160 but rely in software to 'pull' the ISO if I have to use an aperture/shutter combination which leads to underexposure. The ability to vary the amount of 'pulling' by altering the exposure/tempering highlights and boosting shadows is versatile and limits noise to areas where it is inevitable rather than throughout the whole file. Just my way of working when underexposure is inevitable.....

 

[There will be those who disagree with this way of operating, but it works well for me on the files where I intend to use it.]

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I'm going for some dimly-lit examples, lots of dark shadow areas. Clipped some of the noise using "Curves" rather than using noise reduction.

 

ISO2500 (ISO160 4stops down), Photoshop CS2 for the post-process 4-stop pull,

 

M8RAW2DNG.

 

skate4_ISO2500

 

ISO1250 (ISO160, -3ev) Photoshop CS2 for pull, No noise reduction

 

M8RAW2DNG

 

Marine Corp Museum, M8

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...."don't go above 160/320/640, as it becomes really unusable", "looks like my webcam", "terrible ISO performance" etc...

Interesting choice of images to illustrate your point, bla.

I've never, for instance, thought about shooting a landscape snow scene at1/4000 sec. @ f2.8 @ 5000 ASA. Perhaps I'm just odd.

IMX the 'noise' problems implied only make a nuisance of themselves when shooting in very low-light situations. I have some examples somewhere but I'm sure you've seen the sort of thing.

 

:-)

 

Philip.

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I tried to get different ISO and different exposure times

the essence is the same: keep the 5000ASA and go to f/11 and you can shoot handheld at 1/250s. Is that more what you expect of a landscape image?

 

PS: let's see some pictures in this thread!

Edited by bla
image added

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And the last picture for now... It was really dusky when I took it. See the image before the pull and after.

Edited by bla

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...keep the 5000ASA and go to f/11 and you can shoot handheld at 1/250s. Is that more what you expect of a landscape image?

 

PS: let's see some pictures in this thread!

Ha! No; not really. But it's certainly one approach!

 

If you don't mind my asking, bla; what program/software did you use to transpose the ASA to 5000?

 

These are more typical of the 'trouble' I've encountered with shooting at high ASA.; banding in the blacks and obvious 'grain'. Just a quick throwaway snapshot (with detail) which didn't even remotely work.

Funnily enough it reminds me of the results obtained by the 'Autochrome Process' so I know what to do in order to get that 'Historic' late-19th C. look!.....

1250ASA; 1/90 @ f4;

 

Philip.

Edited by pippy

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That image probably would have cleaned up pretty nicely with a slightly higher colour noise reduction in ACR. Or denoise the blue channel and to a lesser extent green in postprocessing.

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Ha! No; not really. But it's certainly one approach!

 

If you don't mind my asking, bla; what program/software did you use to transpose the ASA to 5000?

 

These are more typical of the 'trouble' I've encountered with shooting at high ASA.; banding in the blacks and obvious 'grain'. Just a quick throwaway snapshot (with detail) which didn't even remotely work.

Funnily enough it reminds me of the results obtained by the 'Autochrome Process' so I know what to do in order to get that 'Historic' late-19th C. look!.....

1250ASA; 1/90 @ f4;

 

Philip.

 

Yes, I would be much more interested in both the tools used and the technique used by Bla to get the results he demonstrated rather than a simple post what you have thread.

 

It would be much more informative to learn how this is done than to simply showcase and beat one's chest.

 

My limited experience is that noise kills sharpness and it gets too bad for my eyes above 640 ISO. Clearly Bla has demonstrated greater potential than that, but how is it done?

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That image probably would have cleaned up pretty nicely with a slightly higher colour noise reduction in ACR. Or denoise the blue channel and to a lesser extent green in postprocessing.

Thanks for that prompt, jaapv.

 

It's genuinely not my intention to take over the thread (and apologies in advance to bla for so doing - at least for a short while) but never having experienced any need, previously, to tweak my RAW DSLR files I found the small amount of tinkering I exercised after reading jaaps suggestion to be rather illuminating.

 

To most of you, of course, this is probably all 'old hat' but please make allowances; I'm very new to the world of Digital Leica and am learning important new stuff each day.

For all this; I thank you!

 

Converting the DNG using Ps6's converter and playing about with the sharpening in the 'Detail' sub-menu drop-down gave me a much more acceptable TIFF.

In Ps6 itself a few whisks with the Healing Brush followed by some Clone Stamp attention (both used for cleaning-up the blacks) rendered an almost pleasing, if a tad 'Painterly', result.

 

In future I might not give up on my basket-case files quite so readily.

It makes me wish I had taken the shot for real now; I dismissed the idea after 'chimping' suggested it was a complete waste of time.

Mind you; I have been told that, quite often, 'chumping' IS a waste of time...

 

 

Thanks again!

 

Philip.

Edited by pippy

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From the Leica M FAQ thread:

 

Question:

I have heard conflicting stories on high-ISO performance of the M9. But I have seen beautiful results as well, even at ISO 2500. How do I get the best quality images at high-ISO?

 

Answer:

 

There is a vital difference between the M9 and all other high-end digital cameras. The M9 has virtually no in-camera noise reduction at high ISO, resulting in more detail, but also more visible noise. To avoid this noise, there are two steps to be taken, but first consider the type of photograph:

Low contrast diffuse light or high contrast with specular highlights.

The first trick is to gather as many photons on the sensor as possible to improve Signal to Noise Ratio (SNR) without overexposing. That means: use the histogram. And go manual.

 

It is easiest with the flat image - just bunch the peak up to the right and flatten the lefthand side of the histogram.

 

The high contrast image will need clipping of the specular highlights. So move them off the righthand side of the histogram, and you will see the signal coming up on all other light levels. There is your optimum SNR which you must try to preserve whilst taking photographs by manually adjusting the exposure to the amount of real light, i.e. disregarding the bright spotlights that are trying to fool you into underexposing.

This presupposes that you are on manual and are spending some time “ shooting the histogram in” before starting to shoot in earnest.

 

Note that at ISOs below about 1250 you have enough SNR leeway to start trying to preserve highlights - a whole different game than avoiding noise!

 

Now we come to the second step: the capture sharpening and noise reduction in Adobe Camera raw 6 and Lightroom 3. I will describe the procedure for ACR 6.0, Lightroom users will be able to translate this easily, as it is basically the same.

 

First make sure the program is set to the newest Process version. You will find the setting under the Camera Calibration menu.

 

If an exclamation mark appears on the lower righthand side of your preview it means you have an image that has been processed in Version 2003. Click the exclamation mark to reset the Process Version.

 

With the image open (make sure your output parameters are set to Profoto RGB and 16 bits!) adjust the color balance and exposure to taste, and switch to the detail panel and hit alt-option(command)-0 to go to 100% view.

 

We will use the sliders from top to bottom( more or less), bearing in mind that ACR is non-destructive and, with a subsequent adjustment made it is wise to got back to the previous steps for finetuning. It takes some experience to “ play” all settings to their optimum.

 

Sharpening slider.

Set for the optimum detail separation (normally between about 10 and 40), never mind that you seem to increase the noise, in conjunction with the next

 

Radius slider

Use the range of 0.5 to 1.5, never more. 0.5 is for high-frequency detail images like wooded landscapes, 1.5 for low-frequency detail images like glamour portraits.

Once set, bearing in mind that visible halos and artefacts introduced here will get you in trouble later, skip the next

 

Detail slider

for the time being.

And go to the

 

Masking Slider.

Then drag it with the alt key held down and you will see an edge mask being created on the fly. This will only be visible with the image at 100% or larger. It shows ( in white) what areas are being sharpened and (in black) which ones are being protected.

So drag it until only the edges you want sharpened are showing. Never mind the small detail. For that you have the

 

Detail slider.

Alt-drag that one until you have your fine detail back without enhancing too much noise.

 

Now go to the noise-reduction group.

 

First go to

 

Color.

Normally the default setting of 25 will be fine to suppress the color noise completely, but by all means play with the slider to find the optimum setting. If you get some color bleeding on color edges you can move the

 

Color Detail slider

from its default of 50, but be careful not to go too far left as it will make the image digitally smooth.

( the same for the Luminance Detail slider)

Normally you won’t be using those two.

 

The most important slider of the group is the

 

Luminance slider

Pull it right to see the noise disappear. When you are happy, go back to the sharpening group and tweak if needed, back to luminance, etc. (*)

 

And you are done, go back to the adjustments panel. Now if you have a mixed frequency image, you can correct by using the adjustment brush and tweak the sharpening, both to more sharp ( for instance the eyes in a portrait) or softer ( for instance the skin of somebody in a landscape) (**). Then go on and open the image.

 

Now this is a long instruction manual, but with a bit of practice it gets really quick and easy, and you can of course make a few presets for image types you commonly shoot.

 

 

(*)This is a most interesting slider. At a setting between 0 and 10 it will act as an extra sharpening slider for low-noise images, as it seems to add a bit of fine random structure, which enhances the impression of sharpness

 

(**) Of course, for the more Photoshop-minded the elegant way to do this is to optimize for one frequency, open as a Smart Object, copy and redo for the other frequency, create a layer mask in PS and paint in the effect, but on the whole I find that a bit of overkill for routine use.

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Another at ISO160 and -3ev, ISO1250 equivalent.

 

Marine Corp Museum, M8

 

and at the skating rink,

 

Skate2_ISO1250

 

I've been using Arvid's "M8RAW2DNG" to convert uncompressed raw images to DNG-16. I find the images to be superior to those produced with standard DNG-8. ISO2500 equivalent (ISO160 and 4ev under, manual exposure) are usable.

 

At this point, I use the "Button Dance", RAW+JPEG, M8RAW2DNG to convert to DNG-16. I'm using Photoshop CS2 and "levels" to pull the exposure. There are some more options available in the Raw converter that I need to experiment with. At ISO1250, no NR used, none necessary.

Edited by Lenshacker

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To keep this thread going I have some more photos for you and invite you again to participate and show your high ISO shots

 

I just finished a high ISO stress test, with quite some brightness step and large uniform areas in the image. So there will be noise visible.

 

I kept the aperture at 2.8 and varied the shutter speed from 1/60s to 1/2000s (1/4000 and 1/8000, too, but I don't know how to push more than 5ev in LR and anyway those do get ugly, I guess ^^)

 

No luminance noise reduction, again LR 5.7, black and white (there wasn't any color in the image anyway

)

 

- Arvid

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I do not know why, but all your pictures are clearly marked ISO 160 in the Exif.

Some shutter speeds are not what you show in your post.

 

Perhaps someone could explain how that can happen.

Could it be the software you used?

.

Edited by pico

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Hi Pico,

 

I always shoot at ISO 160 and push in postprocessing, therefore the image exif data only shows ISO 160.

About the shutter speeds... I don't know which one. If so I might have done an accidental error. Could you tell me what images you were referring to?

 

Arvid

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As difficult as it was for me to believe: Using M8 RAW and DNG-16, it's best to leave the camera set to ISO160, Underexpose 3, 4, even 5 stops, and "Push" the acquired data in Post-Processing. Think of it as under-exposing Tri-X and push-processing, you are pulling the details out of the shadows. The amount of shadow detail in a DNG-16 is amazing, DNG-8 "throws most of it away". The shadow area is where the DNG-8 compression scheme really cuts into.

 

I use LR+Photoshop CS2. "One rainy day when all my other projects are done", need to do a step by step. I need to experiment more with M8RAW2DNG options for using the Black-Level files generated in Raw mode. They perform a "Sensor Non-Uniformity" (NUC) measurement. Helps eliminate banding.

 

See this example for pulling details out of the shadows with the M8 DNG-16.

 

http://www.leicaplace.com/album.php?albumid=70&attachmentid=1982

 

http://www.leicaplace.com/album.php?albumid=70&attachmentid=1981

Edited by Lenshacker

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I had a go at the 7th image from the last series... the one with -6EV exposure. That is ISO 10000 equivalent, so don't expect wonders...

 

In the dark areas there are some banding artefacts, so I tried a debanding idea that I recently came up with. The method does not change the luminance noise pattern.

For the last step I tried to do some luminance noise reduction, but I feel I'm not quite getting the hang of it yet. ^^

 

- Arvid

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