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High ISO prints from M9


noah_addis

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After reading all over the internet (including this forum) about how bad the M9 is at higher ISO ratings, I decided to do some test prints.

 

I spent less than an hour with the camera on 9/9 and shot maybe 50 images, all with the 35 Summilux ASPH.

 

I'm not posting any images because they're pointless. Posting the whole frame is of limited use because you can't see fine detail on images that are 700px wide. And posting 100 percent crops is silly too, since files viewed on a monitor at 100 percent actually look much worse than when printed properly.

 

I finally got around to making some prints today from my test images and I am very impressed.

 

The first test I made was shot at ISO 1600 printed at around 22x15, which is the native size of the files at 240dpi. The print looked amazing, there was very little visible noise, what was there was in the shadows and was not objectionable. The print was very sharp with great dynamic range. There were light sources within the frame, and they were blown out, but the highlights were clean and it was a smooth transition from detail to the blown-out area.

 

The second test was shot at ISO 800 and was a section enlarged to the equivalent of a 40-inch wide print. I have never been happy with the M8 files when enlarged to that size, even when shot at 160 or 320. Not because of noise but because of loss of fine detail. The M9 file at 800 was far better than my prints from the M8 at that size even when the M8 was at lower ISO. There was very little noticeable noise and lots of fine detail.

 

The third test was a torture test, shot at ISO 2500, underexposed a tad and printed at the equivalent of a 40-inch wide print. The result was surprising. There was visible noise but it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected. It didn't have a bad look really. Not sure that I'd do this on a regular basis, but I've seen noisier prints in my lifetime.

 

The first two prints, (ISO 1600 @ 22x15in and ISO 800 @ 40x27in) are good enough that I would use them for exhibition prints or even for discerning clients. The fact is I really don't print that large, but now that I can it might open up some possibilities. Even the third print could be used for exhibition if a grainy look is desired. I'm going to need a bigger printer:D

 

I don't expect everyone to take my word for it, but my point here is that anyone considering an M9 should make some test prints before judging the camera too harshly. Prints are final product of photography for most of us. If you only look at your photos on screen you may as well stick with the M8.

 

It's quite common to judge a digital camera based on 100 or even 200 percent views in photoshop. Yet in our film days we often judged negatives by using only an 8x loupe or making an 11x14 print. My advice would be to forget about the screen when judging digital cameras and make some prints, they might surprise you...

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...

I don't expect everyone to take my word for it, but my point here is that anyone considering an M9 should make some test prints before judging the camera too harshly. Prints are final product of photography for most of us. If you only look at your photos on screen you may as well stick with the M8.

 

It's quite common to judge a digital camera based on 100 or even 200 percent views in photoshop. Yet in our film days we often judged negatives by using only an 8x loupe or making an 11x14 print. My advice would be to forget about the screen when judging digital cameras and make some prints, they might surprise you...

 

Thanks, Noah. I do take your word for it.

 

You are right about viewing at 100% being a little misleading. I did not like the M8 files initially comparing them with Canon files but the end results are a great difference.

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Thanks Noah. Love your work and trust your judgement. This is indeed a very valuable opinion for those who (like me) may have been on the edge...

 

That's what I mean too. It's a professional, clear und reproducable statement.

 

Thanks!! I never heard about you and your work (in Germany). Phantastic!!

Thanks Noah!!

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I might be a freak, but when a noisy digital picture is converted into B&W, the result is sufficiently close to the grainy pictures - that I always wanted to emulate as a teenager - that it has a visceral attraction for me. There's something subcortical about the way that grainy B&W affects me, and so I really can't bring myself to worry too much about noise at high ISO. After all, I never pushed a B&W film above 1600, and I'm not in a position where I need fast colour images - being an amateur picture maker rather than one who must perform for others. Lucky me!

Nonetheless, for those who require the ability to produce commercially useful, or personally satisfying colour photos, I am glad to hear the M9 can help out.

 

Chris

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Agree entirely. I've found that viewing at 50% for prints under 12x18 and even at 33% for larger prints gives a better impression of what the final product will look like than pixel peeping at 100%.

 

Right on, Matt! 100% and 200% pixel peeping may tell you that there is more noise in Camera A than Camera B, but it tells you nothing about how the pictures actually appear. It's like looking at an Impressionist painting by only examining individual brush strokes with a loupe. That may tell you how the painter did things, but until you step back and let the colors merge at viewing distance, you have no idea what the painting really looks like.

 

As Matt says, 50% or 33% (1:2 or 1:3) will tell you much better what a print is going to look like.

 

To which I'll add: A little noise is actually a good thing. It adds to the impression of fine detail and sharpness. Too much noise is not what you can see at 100%, it's what is too much for *you* at print size.

 

--Peter

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Noah greatly appreciate seeing a quality post and I note there is a fair round of applause that supports your sensible comments and opinion.

I am also finding the M9 creates a picture that can generate terrific prints. My printer runs to A1 and I will soon do some tests to see were the Print boundaries are?

I agree with your comments about Photoshop viewing at 100%. Actually on the M9 I have found that dialling into the picture on the Camera screen also was disconcerting in what I could see.

I made a comparison of the Camera screen view to my Photoshop Navigator. I was surprised to find that it only took three clicks to achieve the 100% view. Five clicks on the camera dial equals 300% in Photoshop. Not a view that I use often or find helpful.

M9 Camera Dial 1 2 3 4 5 (clicks of enlargement)

Photoshop Navigator 50% 100% 200% 300%

If I have got this completely wrong I have no doubt someone will give me a different point of view.

Thanks for your post comments.

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I just printed a few small crops up to A4, iso 2500. I must say that while perfectly usable in monochrome, this is not something I would use to any critical use in color. Just too much noise. I think my "Print limit" for a3+ and a2+ would be 800-1600 somewhere on the M9, while it is 3200 on my D700... and that annoys me, greatly. But not much I can do about that now, is there?

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