Monday, March 20, 2006

Nikon D200 against my Fujifilm S2pro

For years now, my Fujifilm S2pro has been my "gold standard" for out of camera color. The SuperCCD sensor, coupled with Fujifilm's tuning of the camera is a superb imager. What's amazing to me is that this camera, which is nearing 4 years old, still manages to hold its own against much newer and faster cameras.

So, when I got my Nikon D200, my plan was to keep my S2pro as my backup camera. However, getting the D200 to be a good for out of camera color shooting jpegs has proven to be quite a challenge. The default D200 settings out of the box give accurate color, but in printed photographs, this is actually dull, non-pleasing color. Humans actually seem to see and remember more vivid than reality, apparently, because prints from my S2pro are more pleasing, but less accurate, in color.

Adjusting the Nikon D200 using their optimize image settings didn't work as well as I hoped. The "Vivid" setting gives nicely saturated images, but they end up overly red. Not noticeable with the porcelain figures I tried for comparison, but on real human skin, waaaaay too red.

Going back to the dpreview boards, I kept reading that people recommended shooting in RAW. However, that defeats the purpose of getting the camera to give me the color I wanted.

Complicating matters is the LCD screen on the back of the D200, which seems on my camera to have a greenish color cast to it. I like that it's so big, but the poor color accuracy of the LCD makes it hard to tell if my white balance is correct.

On March 19th, I shot a very nice model Yulia, http://www.yulia.info with both my D200 and S2pro for comparison and to tune my D200. The S2pro effortlessly made great out of camera jpegs. The D200....didn't do as well. In cases where the images were slightly overexposed, the whole image begins to go yellowish before going white. Really quite hideous. Messing with custom settings did not give me the happy results I was hoping for.

Bottom line: I'm going to have to settle for my D200 settings at simply activating mode III in sRGB color, with medium high sharpening. The images will be slightly redder than their S2 counterparts, but that's better than being bluer/purpler, which is what happened with my D200 images. I'll post a couple of photos for comparison separately. Why Nikon went with this Sony sensor instead of a decent Fujifilm sensor, I'll never know.

Rumor has it that Fujifilm's possible next digital SLR uses a D200 body. If the sensor retains the Fujifilm color and if the body remains like the D200, I'll be looking for an upgrade/replacement...for my D200, while keeping the S2pro as backup.

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