Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Lightroom 4 Beta 1 Drives me Squirrely

I spent some time exploring my older images. Lots of fun to redo several of them. As I hit the 2007 summer walk around Mud Lake, I recognized a favorite squirrel image. Shot with the fantastic 300 f/4 AFS and TC17e at 510mm, it is a fantastic rendition of the animal. But this was also a 4Mp Nikon D2Hs professional body with a pre-CMOS LBCAST sensor of Nikon’s own design. The camera was amazing when light was added, but shadow noise was always a problem.

I have gone back and reprocessed the image several times over the years and I could not resist another shot at it with Lightroom 4. So starting from the beginning …

My first attempt might have actually been the best attempt. It certainly has very nice long fur on the tail and the shadows are not too obtrusive on my Dell monitor. But on the much brighter acer TN panel, the belly looks rather smudged and noisy.

The EXIF for the image is: 800ISO, f/6.7, 1/30s

Image number 1 was processed in CS3 from RAW.

Attempt number 2 brightens things considerably. Also processed in CS3.

The fur does separate much better from the background, and the overall tones are more pleasant to me. His little hands and feet and the tail are really well defined. But the heavy grain on the belly is unmistakable.The tones are just too open.

The next one is a similar attempt to #2 bit with more attention paid to the belly area.

Now that one is a huge improvement over #2. Mainly because of the more subtle sharpening. The grain is much better controlled. Still CS3 by the way.

Of course, I needed to try one more time … and this one is almost cartoony. The main difference here is an excessive use of the Digital Outback Photo detail plugin. I forget its official name, but it was free and it really sucks detail out.

There is no arguing with its ability to show details. This is actually not bad … but I get a sense of smearing that I cannot shake. It is subtle but my visceral reaction is not all that positive. There are also nasty shadow artifacts around the belly area and the leg creases. I just don’t like this very much.

And finally … Lightroom 4 Beta 1 with the 2012 image process.

Now that’s more like it!

The fur looks like fur … soft and silky, yet detailed. The belly is not grainy and there are no nasty artifacts. The hair of the tail looks very fine. All in all, this is easily the best of the bunch. And what amazes me is how easy tones are to control in Lightroom 4. They say that this version is very “twitchy” … with small movements of the dials making big changes. And they are very right about that.

But what I like about that is the ease with which you can see the changes and back them off. I love that …

So … Lightroom 2012 is going to be a winner in my book …