Saturday, April 9, 2011

F550EXR — RAW can save the day — Review Part 25

Back to the Beaver Trail … hyuk hyuk hyuk.

I saw this Muskrat munching away on top of a huge rock where some kids had dropped a big whack of seeds or something. (It could have been a baby Beaver, but the tail had hair so I’m going with Muskrat.)

I got one shot with the D300 before he dashed behind the rock …

That’s a nice image … very sharp and detailed. I could not compare it to the F550 yet because the little fellow jumped off and hid. I slithered along to my left to see if I could get a view of him and there he was, looking pissed. Note that I had to pull him up out of the shadows quite a bit, but 14 bit RAW from Nikon makes that pretty easy …

Another very nice image … so why not stop torturing you with dSLR images and move on to the F550EXR …

First, the jpeg out of cam with no extra tweaking. The exposure here is 100 ISO, f/5.3, 1/170s and –1.33EV … now, I would expect to get a pretty dark image overall, and especially a dark image of the highlights.

Well, that’s about right actually. Unlike the Vulture shot in the previous part, this one has the highlights intact. But the Muskrat is pretty far down in the shadows, so obviously this image needs processing to pull out the subject.

Open it up to 800px and you will see that it actually looks blurred. And it’s not blurred, that’s just the rampant smearing that occurs when you drop hair and fur into deep shadow. The noise reduction gets really confused and pounds your data into the dust.

So … enter Silkypix and ACR. In this conversion, I used Silkypix only for conversion and some tone adjustment to save the highlights. I used ACR for a bit of tweaking and color noise reduction. Then CS5 with Topaz Denoise 5 for a tiny amount of extra NR. Of course, I sharpened here too.

Once reduced to 800px, the result is an order of magnitude better than anything that came form the jpeg.

They really are from the same exact capture. It actually resembles the D300 images in clarity.

So here we see a clear case of RAW saving the day. If for no other reason, RAW is a great reason to upgrade to the F550EXR if you care about image quality under all lighting conditions.

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