Sunday, April 01, 2007

Dynamic Range Torture Test

One of the interesting features of the S5 Pro is the expanded dynamic range feature. But, does it really make a difference that can be seen? I came up with the scenario that I might typically use--photographing someone inside a car without a flash, while hoping to keep as much of the detail outside the car windows. This would be roughly equivalent to photographing someone inside a house against a window and wanting to keep the outside scene through the window visible.

Now, normally what I would do is meter for the exterior, adjust the camera to ensure the shutter speed is at or slower than sync speed, and use a flash. This keeps the dynamic range within what a camera can handle. However, sometimes I don't want to use a flash or a flash will ruin the look I want.

Sadly, I didn't have a model handy for this torture test, but maybe in a few weeks...

So, here's the overall layout. It's a black interior of my auto on a sunny day. In the background is a neighbor's house. This shot was taken with the S5 Pro at the 400% DR setting, manual exposure at 1/15 and f/11 at ISO200. The meter actually recommended (correctly) 1/60 at f/11, but I deliberately set the shot at 1/15 to match what the D50 meter recommended for the D50 and to pick up more detail of the interior of the car:


Now, here's how three cameras, the D50, the D200, and the S5 Pro compare. These are 100% crops, which is why the D200 has a "zoomed" image look to it. All three cameras were at 1/15 and f/11 at ISO 200. Notice how the S5 Pro retains not only details from the tree in the background, but also shows a branch just outside the car window, in front of the roof. You'll probably have to click on the image to see the full-size comparison.




When I can get a real human to pose in the car, I'll redo this torture test. But in the meantime, be aware that the DR feature of the S5 Pro is real and it can make the difference between a white fluffy cloud and just a white blob in the sky.

14 Comments:

At 4:35 PM, Anonymous Huy said...

Hi,

Thank you for the dynamic range comparison. In the future, I'll probably get the S5 Pro, I will do a test vs. film, and its dynamic range.

Take care.

Sincerely,
Huy (sounds like "we")

 
At 7:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting comparison. Do the three cameras meter a given EV equivalently?

 
At 9:38 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

There are actually two metering systems in use between the three cameras. The D50 has its own 420 segment matrix meter, while the D200 and S5 Pro have a 1005 pixel matrix meter, which has a lot more patterns stored. As a result, the S5 Pro correctly metered for the outside at 1/60, f/11, ISO200(presumably the D200 would have done the same) while the D50 metered at 1/15 f/11 at the minimum ISO of 200. If the light were even, they would probably meter identically, but when the light falls into an odd category, I would expect the more sophisticated S5 and D200 meters to do better.

 
At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting, indeed. Thanks for the mini-review.

I've been considering the S5 Pro -- but have been scratching my head a bit over the designation I hear again and again: "excellent for wedding photographers and studio work." I don't shoot either -- and am curious to know how you find that camera for architectural, landscape, travel photography.

fjd

 
At 6:19 AM, Blogger Anthony said...

"am curious to know how you find that camera for architectural, landscape, travel photography."

Do you shoot stock photography? If so, then this may not be the camera for you, depending upon the stock company's requirements. Do you have lenses from another system like Canon? Again, this may not be the camera for you.

In the Nikon system, the S5 Pro is fantastic as a travel camera. As a landscape camera, the Velvia setting makes it unique and worthy of consideration. For architectual photography, think about getting the right lenses first, but the S5 should be fine. The only concern you should have about the S5 Pro is resolution, and the only Nikon camera with a distinctly clear resolution advantage would be the D2xs. The D200 and S5 Pro are so close that the resolution differences are going to be up to the photographer and the lens used, not the sensor.

If I had the bucks and loved landscape photography, I'd take a long look at the Canon 5D, which does well with its 35mm-sized sensor.

Hope that helps.

 
At 7:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, by your remarkable test the S5 is more better, but as user of the S5, I have seen his focusing system less accurate, this is her only "wrong" thing....and 1.04 is not better of 1.03 firmware.

I whish you a lot of free time for make nice pictures.

 
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