As Australia has different light to Finland (perhaps more contrasty) I wanted to explore how well my findings held here. It was also an opportunity to compare fuji frontier scans with what I get from my Nikon LS-4000 as I have done previously with Noritsu systems.
As mentioned in a previous article, its amazing how well negative does in coping with contrasty light like this:
Good shadow details, great highlights.
I was impressed how well I could pull images out of RAW files from the GH1, with the right processing tools you can do outstandingly well compared to negative.
Noritsu machines scan better than what you get with Fuji Frontier
Getting a high quality scan out of a Frontier operator is like getting milk from a stone, and you just wouldn't buy a digital camera producing as few a megapixels nor as shitty a quality.
So, getting on with it, I made the comparison using my EF 24 f2.8 lens on the 35mm camera and the 14mm end of the 14-45mm Zoom on the GH1. I was expecting that the 14mm would equate to 28mm on the 35mm frame, but wondered how aspect ratio (width over height) would effect this.
I used Photomatix 4.x (which has a nice little batch processing mode) to process my RAW files to get that little bit more out of the file (for that little less effort). See my posts here and here about that.
As it turns out the 4000dpi scan of the 35mm frame using a 24mm lens produces pixel for pixel sizes which are quite close (but not 100% exact) to the 14mm lens on the 4/3 frame. The angle of view and amount of scene captured varied ... you can see that below where I've overlaid the frames as best I could.
So the 24mm (as expected) reveals a wider frame than does the 14mm on the 4/3. You may notice how well I've matched the colour and contrast between the two VERY DIFFERENT media.
This makes comparisons a bit tricky as at 100% views (pixel peeping) because magnification is different, just as 100% views of a more telephoto image will reveal more detail than a wider angle. Essentially the digital has a slight 'resolution' advantage in this. None the less...
So, lets take a look at a central portion of the image where there is some shadow detail and bright reflective objects in full sunlight.
Firstly, I see that seven though the 35mm image covers a wider capture than the 4/3 does the feature size of things on the scan is actually a little larger than on the 4/3, which is impressive. The dynamic range capture is pretty equal although the digital looks a little punchier which suggests it wouldn't quite be up to the wider range of highlights than the negative is.
Next I notice that there is greater details in the brickwork and lovely smooth texture in the wall of the building on the digital.
This smoothness of texture really shows itself on skies:
The smooth clear blue is perfect and the small clouds are almost lost on the negative. I guess this is where film folk liked Slide. But to me if you're going to swing with blocked up shadows and blown highlights that slide film brings (without a projector) then you just may as well use digital anyway.
The digital from RAW with this processing is impressive stuff and makes me really question where and why I'd use negative ... I'll need to test this again on a 5D and see how that goes. I've read they have less noise in the shadows than the 4/3 does, which would really assist with this sort of processing.
Lastly I thought I'd present a comparison with the out of camera JPG and the RAW processed in the manner I work with.
Look to the left over at the building and see how much better the contrast range is reproduced, check out the shadow details under the trees, and generally just how much punchier it looks. Sure you may not like the saturation, but that can be dialed down easily!
Lastly I'd like to present 2 images take looking into the light:
the sky blowouts are a little offputting on the digital as is the slightly garrish colour which no doubt came from handling highlight recovery of blown channels. Clearly some HDRI or plain old under exposure would help with on the digital, but then the shadows will either be ink or noisy.
So Negative still copes with the really harsh conditions better ... well in my view at least.
conclusionThe Photomatix processing of RAW files (automated batch) is now giving me in full sunlight the sort of contrast handling that I once reached to negative for, meaning that I'm now more inclined than previously to reach for my 4/3 digital than I am for negatives. There remain some issues which digital needs to be handled with care.
Its not black and white is it :-)