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Thread: M9 and B&W?

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    M9 and B&W?

    There are a ton of good brains on this forum ... and Guy has been good enough to load M9 DNGs for people to play with even if they do not have a M9.

    Here's my dilemma:

    So far I have not been able to get decent B&W conversions out of the M9 ... and trust me, I've been working at it (I'll share the journey later in this post).

    IMHO, except for a couple of B&Ws from Riccis BUT not all of them, I've yet to see acceptable B&W conversions ... or at least not consistently equal to the M8 ... or for that matter my D3X ... and most certainly not anywhere in the league of B&W film. Guy tried some, I went through all of Juno's delightful Crete images (wonderful color, not so wonderful B&W) and so on. I managed a few decent ones, but it's a low yield.

    BTW, I'd be eternally grateful if Riccis shared how he is converting including camera settings if any.

    Now this is NOT meant as an evaluation of other works or subject matters, but for me a M is not for shooting butterflies or flowers or stuff like that ... as wonderful as those images have been. I can do that with a $2,000. 24 meg image stabilized Sony A850 and Zeiss optics. Riccis is more in the subject zone that I think of when I think M. Above all, I think B&W, candid, and street when it comes to an M ... except for travel like how Juno used it. In other words, IT HAS TO DO BOTH. Very important to me as 70% of my M work is B&W. I suspect I'm not alone here.

    So I've spent hours and hours with no joy. I tried C1 Pro latest version, and tried Jack's suggestion of other profiles including "Film High Contrast" ... I've tried Gradient Map B&W in Photoshop (i.e., tone mapping) which is usually pretty close with the M8 and D3X ... I have an array of actions for B&W conversions in my PS actions pallet including one from Jeff Ascough called "Jeff's Main Squeeze", which is designed to juice up lower contrast mid-tone files, I have a bunch of Presets in Light-Room, a couple of which are one button solutions for most any camera I own. I tried all versions of B&W conversions in PS and LR as well as C1. I tried my old trick of discarding the red and blue channels and converting the green channel to B&W and Gradient mapping it, which often works but didn't for M9 files.

    The closest so far has been the stock LR Preset called B&W High Contrast ... but the skin tones go flat and brights get very close to not holding any tone, so if I goose the contrast any more they'd disappear.

    I haven't bought Nik Silver Effects Pro yet, so if someone has it and has a few moments to apply it to one of Guy's DNGs (preferably something with people in it), that would be great.

    I was going to sell my M8, but until this is solved (and we WILL solve it), it's not going anywhere.

    Any further suggestions? (i.e., HELP)!

    -Marc

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Marc maybe of help to see a sample of what you are after in the final image. Maybe we can figure out how to get there. My guess maybe skin tones in the M8 with the IR even filtered have a transulent look to them. I am thinking since leica pulled the red up it made skin tone flat and the m8 had more transparency.
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Not at a computer try lowering the red channel
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Hi Marc,

    I'm a big fan of Silver Effects and use it quite a bit ... because it's very flexible and easy to use.

    I quickly grabbed the first image I could find in Guy's raw folder with a person in it and did a couple of quick conversions. The first was with the neutral setting and the second with an orange filter.

    Kurt

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    I'd be interested in learning more too. And willing to take a stab at a test file. If nothing else, it would be another approach. I do have Silver Efex but tend to use it a little differently than "stock".

    Maybe one way to go about it would be to use one of your M9 files that you think has the potential (or wish had the potential) of one of your M8s. I've downloaded some of Guy's shots, but you never know what you're going to get since there's no preview.

    Is there a way for you to post a DNG from the M9 that can be downloaded? Then stick one of your preferred M8 B&Ws here in the thread and we can have that as a target.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    HI Marc
    First of all I'm going to be pedantic . . . It's jOno, and not jUno . . not important, and I'll try not to call your Mark to keep it even

    Having said this, I'll hold up my hands, my B&W conversions aren't good enough - I think some of them were okay: This one for instance:
    Considering

    But I'll accept it's very far from the standards you are trying to achieve (I'm not being humble, colour has always been my thing).

    However, not having tried Silver Efex Pro seems odd - why not download a trial version and give it a go?

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Marc:

    I'm more than happy to tell you guys how I do my B&W conversions but please keep in mind that I did not work the M9 images I posted to the fullest since I was traveling overseas, NYC and L.A. over the past couple of weeks... If you want, please post the images you like and maybe one of your files along with an explanation of what you think is not to your liking.

    Cheers,

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    I am having a difficult time understanding why a particular camera might be such an important variable in B&W conversions. As far as I am aware, the conversion process is independent of the underlying image except to the extent that it might need some minor adjustment depending on the specific minor color and contrast of the sensor and firmware.
    There are some scenes that just convert better than others, so the best comparison might be camera a to camera b shots of the same scene and light
    -bob

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Marc,

    Silver Effects 15 day trial is worth the effort.

    Link: http://www.niksoftware.com/silverefexpro/usa/entry.php

    Bob

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    HI Marc
    First of all I'm going to be pedantic . . . It's jOno, and not jUno . . not important, and I'll try not to call your Mark to keep it even

    Having said this, I'll hold up my hands, my B&W conversions aren't good enough - I think some of them were okay: This one for instance:
    Considering

    But I'll accept it's very far from the standards you are trying to achieve (I'm not being humble, colour has always been my thing).

    However, not having tried Silver Efex Pro seems odd - why not download a trial version and give it a go?
    Oh my, sorry for the miss-spelling Jono.

    IMO, your sample has flat blacks on the left side, which is exactly what I'm talking about. It's fine if that's what you were after creatively, but as a sample of full tonal range B&W with deep blacks that still hold detail and subtile separations of near blacks, it's not what I'm talking about.

    I don't have Nik Silver Efex Pro because I have never needed it (I tried a trial download). I'm sure it takes some time to master, so the thought was to see what someone with skill using it could do before investing the time, not just the money.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Oh my, sorry for the miss-spelling Jono.

    IMO, your sample has flat blacks on the left side, which is exactly what I'm talking about. It's fine if that's what you were after creatively, but as a sample of full tonal range B&W with deep blacks that still hold detail and subtile separations of near blacks, it's not what I'm talking about.

    I don't have Nik Silver Efex Pro because I have never needed it (I tried a trial download). I'm sure it takes some time to master, so the thought was to see what someone with skill using it could do before investing the time, not just the money.

    Marc,

    A quick conversion in SE without film style or grain, just small S curve then into PS and corrected highlights.

    Bob
    Last edited by docmoore; 23rd September 2009 at 18:09.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Bob View Post
    I am having a difficult time understanding why a particular camera might be such an important variable in B&W conversions. As far as I am aware, the conversion process is independent of the underlying image except to the extent that it might need some minor adjustment depending on the specific minor color and contrast of the sensor and firmware.
    There are some scenes that just convert better than others, so the best comparison might be camera a to camera b shots of the same scene and light
    -bob
    Well, I have experienced B&W differences between different cameras. For example, I've shot a Nikon D3X and A900 side-by-side in the same conditions and the Sony has a flatter mid-tone response which exhibits some similar characteristics as the M9 does when converted to B&W ... but it's not quite as pronounced and can be corrected to some degree.

    The problem with flat mid-tones is that when you adjust the curve to correct them, one of the two extremes tends to suffer. What I'm seeing is that people are trying to keep some tone in the brights so they don't get blown, and the darks block up.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Oh my, sorry for the miss-spelling Jono.
    No worries . . I'll put off the sex change!

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    IMO, your sample has flat blacks on the left side, which is exactly what I'm talking about. It's fine if that's what you were after creatively, but as a sample of full tonal range B&W with deep blacks that still hold detail and subtile separations of near blacks, it's not what I'm talking about.
    Okay - got it - I quite understand. I like the conversions I've been getting, but that's because I WAS after flat blacks (skies in the landscapes as well)
    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    I don't have Nik Silver Efex Pro because I have never needed it (I tried a trial download). I'm sure it takes some time to master, so the thought was to see what someone with skill using it could do before investing the time, not just the money.
    Well, there are enough people who like it and the learning curve isn't very steep, so perhaps it would be worth trying again?

    Is this one simply lacking in perzang?


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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Riccis, I liked the very first image when you started the "More fun with M9 thread."

    Now it may have been ideal lighting and all that, but it's an example of what B&W should look like IMO. Skin tone is right on, detail held in the dark clothes against a dark door with good separation ... yet the door's window reflection holds subtile tonal seperation ... and the bright white tennis shoes pop but have detail. Very good contrast without losing detail at the extremes of the tonal scale.

    If it weren't for that image, I'd be a bit worried about B&W with the M9.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    About the same:

    Bob
    Last edited by docmoore; 23rd September 2009 at 18:09.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    No worries . . I'll put off the sex change!



    Okay - got it - I quite understand. I like the conversions I've been getting, but that's because I WAS after flat blacks (skies in the landscapes as well)

    Well, there are enough people who like it and the learning curve isn't very steep, so perhaps it would be worth trying again?

    Is this one simply lacking in perzang?

    Yep, nice as that shot is, IMO it lacks Leica M Pizzaz! Zing! Juice! or what-ever you want to call it. To my eye it's flat and lacks of subtile mid-tone contrast punch ... it undermines the characteristics of the M lenses that I'm used to seeing. Again, it may well be differences in creative preferences ... but when almost everything B&W from this camera is looking that way, including my own attempts, then I get suspicious.

    I will take your suggestion and try the Nik software again tomorrow.

    Thanks,

    Marc

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Not at a computer try lowering the red channel
    I tried lowering the blue channel and it wasn't all bad. I'll play around with that on other files and see how well it works across the board. If it does, I'll write a M9/B&W action.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Marc - Have tried shooting a 8-bit DNGs? Depending on how Leica is compressing the files to 8 bits, this might get the remapping of lower and upper tones you're looking for. I would assume Leica is using the same codec (or whatever you want to call it) as the M8 for the 8-bit DNGs. It's essentially the same sensor, same compression (potentially), so similar results. That's my guess.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by John Black View Post
    Marc - Have tried shooting a 8-bit DNGs? Depending on how Leica is compressing the files to 8 bits, this might get the remapping of lower and upper tones you're looking for. I would assume Leica is using the same codec (or whatever you want to call it) as the M8 for the 8-bit DNGs. It's essentially the same sensor, same compression (potentially), so similar results. That's my guess.
    I will try that also, thanks for the notion.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Thanks for all the suggestions so far, keep 'em coming!

    Just to help define what I'm after, here are 4 shots converted to B&W with little effort ... 2 from the M8 and 2 from the D3X (which is the best 35mm DSLR for B&W I've used to date).

    I looked for some images shot in shade, in light like Guy has to deal with (direct blasting sunlight) and a couple done indoors with mixed lighting.

    Note that the brights and darks dominate with the mid-tones knitting it all together ... so the impression is "snappy contrast" ... but there is detail in those brights and darks. I have to hold detail in the wedding dress while not totally blocking up the Tuxedos or darks.

    My issue is that the mid-tones dominate with the M9 conversions at the expense of the lights and darks.

    -Marc

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Marc:

    With the M9 file in C1, try pumping clarity up to around 60 or 80 first, and see what you think...
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quick post-processing tips that I use all the time (and also used on the first M9 B&W image)

    -My straight B&W conversion is from a custom action that my good friend Jeff Ascough made for me to use specifically with the M8 (still works like a charm with the M9)...
    -Create two layers set to Overlay mode at very low opacity (usually no more than 18%) and adjust highlight and shadow density...
    -Most of my shadow work is also adjusted from an individual burn layer... When I need a punch, I set the layer mode to Soft Light.

    I hope this makes sense...

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    If you like it let me know which one if any
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Riccis,

    I beta tested Jeff's set of actions a while back, and still use them frequently.

    PM sent.

    -Marc

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Guy, I definitely like No1 best. So come on, how was it converted apart from applying a yellow filter?
    Cheers, Dave
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Yellow Filter in C1 than I clipped the blacks ever so slightly and made sure my whites stayed under the radar by not clipping. Mid tones seemed pretty good so left them alone. Yellow lightens the mid tones. Big secret working with Phase or the M9 is adding some clarity which adds detail in the mid tones. I did not do it here since it was skin and was sharp enough but landscape or anything like that P30 gets 20 plus and the M9 looks like 35 or 40 so far. Need to play with that a little more. Was actually going to do that today.
    I still want to try another with lowering the red channel
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    Yellow Filter in C1 than I clipped the blacks ever so slightly and made sure my whites stayed under the radar by not clipping. Mid tones seemed pretty good so left them alone. Yellow lightens the mid tones. Big secret working with Phase or the M9 is adding some clarity which adds detail in the mid tones. I did not do it here since it was skin and was sharp enough but landscape or anything like that P30 gets 20 plus and the M9 looks like 35 or 40 so far. Need to play with that a little more. Was actually going to do that today.
    I still want to try another with lowering the red channel
    These thoughts are much appreciated.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    I find this quite interesting. When you Gurus have worked this out, might the be a PS action up for sale?
    Btw, the thing that bothers me most in all conversions in this thread are the transitions from light to shadow on the skin. They look quite "digital"(for lack of a better word) to me.
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by jaapv View Post
    I find this quite interesting. When you Gurus have worked this out, might the be a PS action up for sale?
    Btw, the thing that bothers me most in all conversions in this thread are the transitions from light to shadow on the skin. They look quite "digital"(for lack of a better word) to me.
    We could probably arrange that LOLOLOLOL!

    Re skin smoothness, it is one big issue when you use a red or yellow "filter" to convert -- most blemishes are accentuated from it... Much better to use a Green filter to keep skin smooth-toned, and yellow-green can be an excellent compromise for the overall image tonality. (Hint, hint, hint!!!)

    However, I find the best conversions come from adding clarity while keeping the black point and white point controlled first, then try reducing saturation to zero, then bumping global contrast and adjusting brightness to balance...

    And yes, you CAN do clarity in PS as part of an action, so all of the above can be done in PS and I could generate a $15 PS action if there was sufficient interest.

    Cheers,
    Jack
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    If you like it let me know which one if any
    The first one, naturally. Very nicely done.

    You guys (Guy & Jack) are doing doing what you do best.

    Jack, I am sure there will be interest among the M9 users. Lots of potential.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    If you like it let me know which one if any
    I can't believe no one has commented - "I'll take the one on the right!". Maybe the left.


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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    I'm a little surprised myself. I kind of set you all up for that one
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Riccis View Post
    Quick post-processing tips that I use all the time (and also used on the first M9 B&W image)

    -My straight B&W conversion is from a custom action that my good friend Jeff Ascough made for me to use specifically with the M8 (still works like a charm with the M9)...
    -Create two layers set to Overlay mode at very low opacity (usually no more than 18%) and adjust highlight and shadow density...
    -Most of my shadow work is also adjusted from an individual burn layer... When I need a punch, I set the layer mode to Soft Light.

    I hope this makes sense...
    Hi- Is the B&W action of Jeff Ascough a commercial product? If not, might you share them with interested (and grateful) forum members? thanks...Peter

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    For those of you interested in Jeff's actions, I highly recommend you purchase his latest Silver Action Set (http://jeffascough.typepad.com/ascough_silver_actions/) as they are fantastic and the closest to the real deal (film ) without having to get into PS filters.

    Cheers,

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Since I am getting a lot of PMs about Jeff's actions, please be aware that all you need is on the Silver Actions set...

    Cheers,

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Riccis View Post
    Since I am getting a lot of PMs about Jeff's actions, please be aware that all you need is on the Silver Actions set...

    Cheers,
    Ordered! Can't wait. Thanks.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Here is a conversion I just did off Guy's raw file -- this is a difficult conversion because of the contrast in that image and why I chose it. (Plus, Guy didn't upload the DNG of the other one with 2 girls in it LOLOLOL!) Anyway, this was done 100% in C1 other than the downrezzing and jpegging, which I did in CS (via my automated web action kit which IS available for sale on this site!). Probably best to start by telling me specifically what you don't like -- and we are talking about the conversion itslef keeping in mind the contrast range of the original file.



    And here is a similar conversion in color for reference:

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Flesher View Post
    Here is a conversion I just did off Guy's raw file -- this is a difficult conversion because of the contrast in that image and why I chose it. (Plus, Guy didn't upload the DNG of the other one with 2 girls in it LOLOLOL!) Anyway, this was done 100% in C1 other than the downrezzing and jpegging, which I did in CS (via my automated web action kit which IS available for sale on this site!). Probably best to start by telling me specifically what you don't like -- and we are talking about the conversion itslef keeping in mind the contrast range of the original file.

    Not bad. Still lacks a bit of that Leica umph! But we seem to be getting closer. Thanks JacK

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    Subscriber Member TRSmith's Avatar
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    While Actions are being discussed, I want to mention a set of actions I bought ($10?) from Tony Kuyper. The actions create masks either as a layer adjustment curve or on the channels palette (your choice) that mask very specific areas of the image.

    For instance you can use an action labelled "narrow midtones" to select those areas of an image and then use a curve to effect those tones ONLY. The ranges of tones with separate actions cover pretty much all of the major tonal areas and can be a huge benefit and time saver.

    You can find a discussion of how to use them and make a purchase here: http://www.goodlight.us/writing/lumi...tymasks-1.html

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Riccis View Post
    For those of you interested in Jeff's actions, I highly recommend you purchase his latest Silver Action Set (http://jeffascough.typepad.com/ascough_silver_actions/) as they are fantastic and the closest to the real deal (film ) without having to get into PS filters.

    Cheers,
    I would love to but his site makes clear that he sells only to professionals. Guess us amateurs who care dearly about what we produce just aren't deserving

    Woody

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by fotografz View Post
    Not bad. Still lacks a bit of that Leica umph! But we seem to be getting closer. Thanks JacK
    I'll take the girl you can keep the B&W . Oops i did not say that . Sick 3 espresso over tired humor but I'm in a damn good mood. LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Hi Marc
    Still trying with my 'problem' file - the difficulty being that their skins are very dark anyway.

    Does this look more like the thing?.


    This was not done in Silver efex pro.

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    The best B&W conversion on the market today are Jeff Ascough's Silver Action and Nik's Silver Effects.

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by woodyspedden View Post
    I would love to but his site makes clear that he sells only to professionals. Guess us amateurs who care dearly about what we produce just aren't deserving

    Woody
    That's a new one on me. Maybe I should have read it more carefully. Then again, I'm sure I can be considered a professional at something.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Here is the above color image run through one of my compound CS manipulations that does utilize Nik Silver FX, but not fully -- it is blended with a CS conversion. Of course so much of how these turn out is dependent on the initial conversion... Personally, I am not going to be purchasing an M9 anytime soon, so will probably not bother perfecting a workflow for it, but wanted to post an exemplar for reference:




    And just playing around, here is a new approach, again all from C1:

    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    A bit more grit but the cat hair (RH side model's arm) details vanish with it.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by Vivek View Post
    A bit more grit but the cat hair (RH side model's arm) details vanish with it.
    I assume you mean the Nix conversion? Yes, that is one issue with it, they add some blur and grain to emulate the differing emulsions and that kills the micro detail to a certain extent. You can dial it back out in control panel dialog to get the fine details back, but then it no longer looks like film. Not that that's bad IMO...
    Jack
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    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Yeah, the Nik conversion. I know you are just toying with these.

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    Sr. Administrator Jack's Avatar
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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Bottom line is the M8 with the slight IR leak was maybe the best monochrome camera we've seen to date. IMO the original file matters a lot and at this point I think the M8 is still the B&W king...

    Sorry,
    Jack
    home: www.getdpi.com

    "Perfection is not attainable. But if we chase perfection, we can catch excellence."

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    Re: M9 and B&W?

    Quote Originally Posted by woodyspedden View Post
    I would love to but his site makes clear that he sells only to professionals. Guess us amateurs who care dearly about what we produce just aren't deserving

    Woody
    Woody:

    If you want to order the actions from his site, just go ahead and you should be ok... I emailed Jeff a heads up that he may get a few inquiries based on my recommendations here and replied everything was cool.

    I look forward to seeing some results posted here...

    Cheers,

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