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Best M8 DNG converter?

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I have been working with the M8 for a bit over a week now, mostly on stock, editorial and some ad jobs. I have used Lightroom, ACR-4 and now C1. While the M8 files with aspheric glass look great in mid to low contrast lighting, in higher contrast, I am finding that no matter what I do, unlike my 5D files, the finest details seem to be falling apart with strange patterns and blobbing.

 

Two clients have told me to not use any sharpening as they are getting images that look to be over sharpened. Funny thing is, I am not using any sharpening at all in ACR or C1 and only a touch of noise reduction at ISO 160.

 

So in looking at these 100% crops, those great $3,000 Leica lenses that are flawless on film are just not being given just portrayal with the M8 in bright light, it looks as if the detail they put out is too much for the M8 sensor to handle. I have tried all kinds of ways of processing, filters on, filters off, you name it and I still get the same blobbed out details.

 

For example, if you look at the flower bed behind the park bench, some of the fine details of the wrought iron fencing near the ground in partial shadow is simply amazing, but when you look at the bricks or the floral detail, it breaks up a bit. The water is the worst, here you have literally microscopic sized particles of water rendered sharp, then you look at the transitional details of the larger blobs and it just looks like a point and shoot.

 

Some of my clients like to go mural sized and have crop options as they are used to doing that with my 5D files, but the M8 files are simply not going to hold up to that with current output.

 

I do love the M8 though, it is SO much easier to shoot with and I might just have to accept that it will primarily be an editorial camera.

 

Any ideas here?

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Forget your style of shooting with canons, ie histogram to the right and recover the highlights. But rather shoot to ensure you don't blow the highlights. I tend to shoot with -2/3 exp comp all the time. You can then extract the shadow detail in PP

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I occasionally get the same strange maze-like pattern (which you can see in the bricks on the ground in your shot) as a kind of moire artifact. I suspect it is related to the Bayer algorithm used (perhaps struggling to cope with certain high frequency detail). It doesn't happen all that often but it is very annoying because it means extra work cleaning it up for stock submissions.

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Forget your style of shooting with canons, ie histogram to the right and recover the highlights. But rather shoot to ensure you don't blow the highlights. I tend to shoot with -2/3 exp comp all the time. You can then extract the shadow detail in PP

 

I have always exposed for the highlights with either the 5D or the M8 in medium to bright light. If I am on auto exposure with the M8, it is usually set at -1/3rd to -2/3rd as well.....but that is not really the issue here.

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I've noticed this, too.

 

The digital gurus say we should "expose to the right," with most histogram info nudged to the right of center rather than to the left. However, I've noticed that with even the slightest overexposure, highlights clip big time and the pixels just left of the highlights lack detail.

 

I use ACR to process raw files, but find the "shadow/highlight" photoshop adjustment -- usually done in a layer so i can just work on the areas that need it -- able to recover much of the highlight detail I can't salvage in ACR.

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For whatever it is worth I would also be interested in what other folks are using. I tried C1 and did not like it much. I upgraded just a few days ago to CS3 and like it better, but then I have been using CS2 on all my other digital stuff so the transition is painless. If there is a better raw converter out there I would like to give it a try, maybe for no other reason than to satisfy myself that ACR is OK. John

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First, the above comments re exposure are right on the mark -- But assuming you get that under control, for lower ISO images, 160 and 320:

 

In C1 try checking the box for "pattern noise supression" and keep sharpening on, but at a low level, like soft look around 100, threshold 4 to keep from accentuating noise.

 

In ACR try these: set sharpening to 15, radius 1, detail 15 and masking to 0. Under noise reduction set luminance to 10 and color to 25.

 

The files that now enter CS may look a bit soft, but *if* sharpened properly there, should exhibit excellent detail without any objectional artifacts and handle up-rezznig to 400% native size easily.

 

Cheers,

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Mmmm....it is not really anything to do with blown highlights really, it is more to the affect of edge detail lost in upper middle to higher contrast scenes, regardless of exposure.

 

The water blobs are the best example as even though they are quite focused, the finest details fall apart even in areas that are not blown.

 

I am thinking that the extremely high frequency detail of Leica aspheric glass in bright light is simply too much for this sensor to handle when it comes down to the finest details. That is no slam on the M8 either as I have shot these lenses with Kodak Techpan and have seen just how sharp these lenses really are.

 

This is with the 50 1.4 & 28 2.0 aspherics by the way...

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First, the above comments re exposure are right on the mark -- But assuming you get that under control, for lower ISO images, 160 and 320:

 

In C1 try checking the box for "pattern noise supression" and keep sharpening on, but at a low level, like soft look around 100, threshold 4 to keep from accentuating noise.

 

In ACR try these: set sharpening to 15, radius 1, detail 15 and masking to 0. Under noise reduction set luminance to 10 and color to 25.

 

The files that now enter CS may look a bit soft, but *if* sharpened properly there, should exhibit excellent detail without any objectional artifacts and handle up-rezznig to 400% native size easily.

 

Cheers,

 

I gave this a try on the image with the bricks and the water shot. The water shot looked a lot worse, even more blobbing in either C1 or ACR. In ACR, the pattern in the bricks went away, but not with C1 even with pattern noise selected.

 

Still the cleanest and greatest amount of detail is coming from C1 with noise and sharpness set to zero...

 

More later, I have to get out and shoot!

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I dont really understand what you are getting at with the water

but there is some very ugly looking patterning in the paving stones in the first picture!

I found something (a bit) similar when my M8 was new. It would generate ugly patterns in a specific shade of orange, as it approached over exposure:

I took the camera to Solms, with prints of these pictures, and they change the main board, seems to have fixed it

Guy

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As to your original question, I find Raw Developer to give me the best conversions. Give it a spin, I'll be very curious to hear about your experience with it. he developer, Brain, will supply camera profiles including with IR filters for best color results, but the micro-contrast ability should show itself with the default profile as well. best...Peter

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I have always exposed for the highlights with either the 5D or the M8 in medium to bright light. If I am on auto exposure with the M8, it is usually set at -1/3rd to -2/3rd as well.....but that is not really the issue here.

 

Actually it is very much the issue here, one must understand how the DNG compresses the data then uses LUT's to pad the data back out on decode. There is absolutely no headroom in highlights or the right 1/3rd of the histogram.

 

 

Here a description to help you understand the limitations of the format (8bit squared) Leica has left us with.

 

KammaGamma » Articles » Solving the Leica M8 DNG riddle

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egads Eoin. The article makes the leica DNG sound very suspect indeed. Good thing they look so good! best...Peter

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Still the cleanest and greatest amount of detail is coming from C1 with noise and sharpness set to zero...

 

Then you should probably just keep doing what you are doing with exposure and processing. You are obviously already gleaning the maximum benefit of the M8 sensor and associated DNG based on the way you shoot ...

 

OTOH, maybe your droplets actually looked like blobs in real life...

 

,

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Actually it is very much the issue here, one must understand how the DNG compresses the data

 

 

Yep. The M8 DNG is very sensitive to over-exposure because of the "magic" (or more accurately the cheating and trickery) Leica chose to impart to the 8-bit DNG compression. It rears it's ugliness most for me in too little latitude in the high-midtones/low-highlights generating excessive banding there with sometimes just moderate adjustments. Under-exposing by 1/3 stop helps a lot without unduly compromising shadow detail.

 

Cheers,

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I agree that this is indeed related to lens contrast, exposure and to the 8-bit DNG (which I'm not completely in favor of). The solution that many of us have come to is working with lower contrast lenses which tend to tame the contrast scale a bit.

 

The M8 does have some headroom in the highlights (sometimes a stop or so across all three color channels) but once that is blown it is really blown.

 

Daniel,

 

In another recent thread you wrote:

 

"I think it is funny how much people cry about more dynamic range, it is not making their images look any better, if anything, they look drab and boring like those terrible HDR landscapes I see."

 

Well, those dynamic range limitations are exactly what you're running into with these samples. And, even on film, many of the recent Leica Aspherical lenses tend to run "hot' in the highlights. So too with the ZM lenses.

 

So, three things can help:

 

Now: Lower contrast lenses

Future from Leica: 16-bit DNG

Future from Leica: broader dynamic range from the sensor/processor/etc.

 

As I've been saying for three years now, max contrast lenses are not always the ticket for digital capture.

 

Also...I haven't seen your originals, Daniel, but you may also be running into moire or something much like it. That can be the price of having the detail that comes with no AA filter.

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Yep. The M8 DNG is very sensitive to over-exposure because of the "magic" (or more accurately the cheating and trickery) Leica chose to impart to the 8-bit DNG compression. It rears it's ugliness most for me in too little latitude in the high-midtones/low-highlights generating excessive banding there with sometimes just moderate adjustments. Under-exposing by 1/3 stop helps a lot without unduly compromising shadow detail.

 

Cheers,

 

Yes--there is a ton of shadow detail to compensate with, so underexposing in hard light--unless you want blown highlights--is what I do too.

 

But what I also find in hard light (because these are all hard light examples) with the M8 is that you can usefully use a quarter tone curve in the upper mid and lower mid quadrants in the RAW converter (the opposite of an S curve) to lower contrast and preserve detail without messing colour (keep the midtones around the middle).

 

This is crucial to me; you can always add back contrast when printing (for your output device).

 

FWIW, this is precisely the opposite of the curve I'd use for traditional Canons (though again this works very well for the 1ds2 / 1d2 where people think they have no upper detail). The detail is there, but most profiles / gamma corrections from RAW converters just blow it away

 

On the Mac C1, you can even draw individual RGB corrections and save them then re-apply to all the images (or create a profile if you're using C1 Pro).

 

BTW--the speculars in the water look ok to me... if you wanted them different there are a couple of ways to get them there--but you'd get the same with a Canon... (and sometimes worse, depending on the lens).

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Two clients have told me to not use any sharpening as they are getting images that look to be over sharpened.

 

That's because the files are just plain sharp, not sharpened. They're used to seeing the slight softness of AA-filter cameras. My clients have noticed the difference too but like it.

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But what I also find in hard light (because these are all hard light examples) with the M8 is that you can usefully use a quarter tone curve in the upper mid and lower mid quadrants in the RAW converter (the opposite of an S curve) to lower contrast and preserve detail without messing colour (keep the midtones around the middle).

 

 

Indeed that is a slick trick -- I use it on the highlights when the histo is skewed towards the top, but never felt the need in the shadows -- and it certainly helps the M8 DNG... But even still, if you need to curve those upper values later in post, you're sometimes hosed. Not always, but often enough, those upper tones will band with a mildly agressive S...

 

Cheers,

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