Friday, 22 November 2013

looking into the (high contrast and bright) light

Recently I got the GWC1 adapter for my Panasonic 14mm f2.5 lens. I've written about that over here and here. One of the reasons for getting it was because I've been after something which equaled my OM21mm f3.5 lens (on film) in the micro 4/3 digital realm. So having satisfied myself that it was good enough for me, I then sold my other wide options (the Olympus 9-18mm zoom) and moved on.

The release of the Sony A7 camera has been very interesting for me, and has had me wondering again about if I should go to full frame. I like many things about full frame, but what I don't like is that cameras like the EOS 5D (and most of the new series lenses) are bloated creatures. I would quite likely not be carrying them, and thus (it not being with me) the best camera I had would be something else like my GF/GH camera (or probably my phone). I find it disappointing that full frame digital was only in such obese bodies while my OM series film cameras had been quite compact devices.

I decided to put a roll of 35mm neg into my OM1 and whack the 21mm onto the front and go for a walk with both cameras and see, as it happens I took these shots over the period of a week.

Firstly I was looking for any differences in "Shallow DoF" that could be obtained with a wide lens, because I don't always want everything to be in focus. So I took these two shots. Ohh, and all digitals were shot RAW and many and varied methods were employed to not have blowouts ... more on that in a moment.

GF1 + 14mm + wide

OM1 + 21mm

The perspective difference between 4/3 (4:3) and 35mm (3:2) makes them look a little more different, but essentially the horizontal view is similar between the two systems (and therefore I can crop the 4:3 into 3:2 no dramas) and the DoF is really similar. However I did notice that (when taking and then processing the shots) that the digital blew out in the highlights. Really that just shits me, and this isn't even harsh light compared to stuff I work with in Australia.

So I wandered around down to the river and took these shots:


This is the proverbial "chalk and cheese" and cuts to the heart of why I hate digital ... blown colours in real world situations. Sometimes this just isn't recoverable. The 35mm negative held the cloud details and the irregularity of where blown channels are (red often blows before green or blue) makes the clouds look horrible to me.

Perhaps with a lot of time on my hands (and I already tried using Adobe ACR, dcraw and Photomatix) I could perhaps work this into something nicer. But you know, you just can't recover data that's lost, you can only work it into something acceptable buy effectively "painting".

So this got me thinking (seeing those blinkies and knowing about this issue) that I'd give my OM vs GF a torture test. I waited for a clear day and took a shot looking right into the sun.



So, first impressions were:
  • holy shit my OM21mm had massive flare (and a lens hood isn't going to help here)
  • holy shit the blowouts on the digital are massive ... its pathetic
 Ok, so I dropped the exposure on the GF by two stops and tried again (shot on manual BTW) in an attempt to give it more room, and got this:

The blowout is less, but geezuz its still hot. Lets take a closer look...



Which actually has details and didn't blow the channels of Neg (but must be hitting hard I have to say) ... just amazing. Tweaking the contrast and you can actually see the graduation to the disc of the sun!

  • A better lens would fix my film camera shots lens flare, but nothing will fix the digital.
  • just how far do you have to under expose to not blast out the digital (and at what expense of the shadows) 
  • the clouds around the sky in the digital are artifically red due to channel blowouts
The astute (looking at the 100% images) will also notice on this that the 35mm shot enlarges bigger because the 35mm film scan is 5590 x 3780 pixels while the GF1 is 4000 x 3000 pixels. That's a bit more than 25% more pixels to play with!  So you could either print large or scale down and clean up the film grain to have the print looking nearly as smooth as the digital.

So where does this leave me?

Well while my intention was to see how my lenses may "look and feel" on the Sony A7 this exersize has left me wondering if there is any point in moving systems from micro4/3 over to the Sony full frame system, simply because no matter how many more pixels (and I've got enough IMO already) or how much the larger format is going to look better I'm still going to be stuck with the dynamic range issues of digital.

So compared with keeping 35mm neg and micro4/3 (NB going to the Sony A7) I would
  • rationalize bodies and lenses (being able to use the 35mm lenses on both systems)
  • but still need to carry a 35mm film body for high contrast work
and still need to spend a bundle on the A7 (and more or less be only getting a small advantage?).

The wide lens on the 4/3  did give me sufficiently shallow DoF for my purposes and quite enough resolution too. So as long as I don't get blowouts (and I have enough experience to predict that) and since the GF/GH camera is about as compact as the Sony (and really how much more compact can it get?) perhaps I don't get much extra bang for my thousand bucks??
That would be body only and selling my micro4/3 gear to offset the price, so I'd still not have any AF lenses then) at lest with a EOS camera I'd have a couple of EF prime lenses too.

So maybe I won't get the Sony just yet ...

1 comment:

Yu-Lin Chan said...

From experience, the G1/GH1 sensor has a much better dynamic range than most Canon sensors I have used. Digital sensors, even current ones, clip highlights too abruptly, whereas film has a much smoother roll off. But, this is just a matter of time before digital sensors get better.