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Thread: M9 - using the histogram

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    M9 - using the histogram

    Hello,

    I am new here and this is my first post. I just got an M9 and headed out and took some pics today. I had some trouble interpreting the LCD while out there. While out in the field I thought the Dynamic range was horrendous since almost every shot seemed underexposed from reading the histogram. After coming home and looking at the images I was surprised how much detail remained and indeed how amazing the level of detail is. In one of the images, the bottom left of the lcd seemed to indicate underexposure but this was not the case after seeing the image at home in LR. I realize from todays experience that perhaps the best thing to do is to ensure that highlights are preserved in a very contrasty scene, and chances are that a lot will be recovered on an M9. Thoughts? Have other people experienced anything of this sort?

    thanks

    -Vinay

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Is M8 comparable, folks? My experience with one is that it is best to ignore whether the histogram bumps the left edge. I do watch the right edge for blown highlights. In addition, I can often guess that a slim line against the right edge is sky and can be ignored depending on the intended composition.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    if your scene has some specular highlights, you should let the right edge go to the max or you will underexpose, generally. the M's have a special function where you can zoom in on say the highlight area and the histogram will only apply to the zoomed view. then you can be sure it is the highlights that might run to over-exposure as some of them should.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Quote Originally Posted by jlm View Post
    ...the M's have a special function where you can zoom in on say the highlight area and the histogram will only apply to the zoomed view...
    Thanks for the tip. I should read the *** manual. The M8 manual (p. 92-3 English edition) explains both the zoom feature and the menu selection to makes the Info image show clipping.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    These are all valuable and good points. I did read the manual and it's a good reminder of the features. The issue above, however, is that the LCD by default is not accurate, especially in a situation where you have to take a shot quickly. I suppose in all other instances zooming would be good, but you don't always have that opportunity. In the instance I'm talking about, it looked like something was clipped, when in fact it wasn't. I think this is a LCD resolution issue. I suppose this can also happen at the highlight end of the spectrum although I haven't run into that issue yet. I know in time one learns the camera and what it can and can't do and much of this will be instinctive. I guess, for me it's a positive that the M9, at low ISOs, captures more than you realize, but I just need to learn how to work with it.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    i am always depressed by the image quality displayed on the LCD as far as exposure, focus and dynamic range. histogram is entirely different and much more useful for exposure analysis.

    i assume you are shooting raw, as that is where the gold is

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Quote Originally Posted by jlm View Post
    i am always depressed by the image quality displayed on the LCD as far as exposure, focus and dynamic range. histogram is entirely different and much more useful for exposure analysis.

    i assume you are shooting raw, as that is where the gold is
    Yes, I pretty much only shoot raw. I mean to say the LCD Histogram also suffers from lack of resolution ( not just the image which certainly does ). I think it has to do with the fact that there are too few pixels to represent it correctly and I noticed this on the edges of the frame ( which is where you really need it ).

    Thanks for the input.

    -Vinay

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    There is a method - universal for any camera - if you want your histogram to show closer results to what you get in RAW: minimize contrast setting.

    In M9 - 1st you need to change from DNG to DNG + JPG.
    It can be eg. JPG Basic with lowest resolution.

    Then you will see less clipping, as histogram is based on JPG preview.

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    Subscriber Member jaapv's Avatar
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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Take note that the highlight warning on the M8 and M9 is pessimistic to say the least. There is more than one stop of overhead when shooting RAW. If you look carefully you can see it happen on the M8. At first the LCD shows the clipped highlights as found in the RAW preview, and then, after about half a second you can see the pool of red spread to the interpretation of the camera. If you want to avoid noise at higher ISO shoot up as much to the RH side as you dare and blow out specular highlights. They should be blown out anyway. Shooting a full histogram will give the best dynamic range and the least noise. One of the worst advices on the Internet is to shoot the M8 with -2/3rds as a fixed exposure bias. Each shot needs its own exposure. Low-light low contrast photographs, for instance can need up to two stops positive EV correction. Even better of course is to forget about the " A" setting and EV comp altogether. The camera is obviously built for manual exposing.
    If you take the trouble to balance your histogram manually on the M9 and use ACR 6 to develop your DNG one can get very clean ISO 2500 (aka3200) shots.






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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Quote Originally Posted by jaapv View Post
    If you want to avoid noise at higher ISO shoot up as much to the RH side as you dare and blow out specular highlights.
    Jaap:

    It is surprising how simple it is and how many people over analyze it. For all my digital cameras that supported it, from the original Canon D2000, Canon 1D, Leica DMR and Leica M8, I have just used the clipping indicator to fine tune my exposure. Just expose until you see some spectral highlights shown as clipped and it will give you the best file to deal with in post.

    Basically, just what you said above

    Robert

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Jaap
    Late best wishes for the holidays and on-time all my best wishes for the new year. And of course many thanks for all the knowledge and advice you have shared in this and other forums during the past year. It has been very helpful.
    regards
    maurice

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Thanks Maurice
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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    HI Vinay
    I've just seen this. Lots of good advice.
    I have a different strategy for low artificial light, and for brighter daylight.

    Generally speaking I'll have exposure compensation set to +1/3 in low light, and to -1/3 in good / contrasty light. Then, like Rob I check the overexposure red bits to see what I'm getting.

    all the best

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    I'm finding the M9 exposure to be a bit more tricky than with the M8, due to the greater dynamic range but also due to the different metering system. I find the two cameras very different in this regard. General rule, setting down a minimum of -1/3 will protect your highlights, and you need to do that at all cost in my book. I don't even want the specular highlights blown out unless I do it deliberately in post, which is pretty normal. But having them there to manually "blow out" if I want preserves the option for those times when I do not.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    That is fine if you stick at up to 1250, 1600 in a pinch. 2500 files will not respond that kindly. If you want that it may be best to go tripod and mild hdr.
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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Of course your right I should have said that I try very hard to keep the M9 as close to base ISO as possible. I've found that as the ISO increases, the noise creeps up (expected) but also the dynamic range starts constricting it seems pretty quickly, and the files do not process out nearly as "full" as when set on the lower ISO choices. YOMMV.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    I happen to agree with Chuck on this one, and suspect it comes down to shooter preferences. It sounds like Chuck is exposing for highlights, as do I because those are difficult restore in post processing. If a highlight is clipped in the raw file, it is clipped. There is no magical recovery button. Raw editors often apply an S-curve which bumps areas into an over-exposed range. If you want to see how much the default S-curve is effecting exposure, toggle the tone curve between "normal" and "linear". The jargon will vary be raw editor.

    In the case of Phase One C1, the default S-curve will bump up exposure by .66 to 1.25 of a stop. And then their highlight recovery is just pulling back what the S-curve over exposed, so it's all a bit misleading. Whereas RAW Developer's highlight recovery looks at the neighboring pixels to extrapolate a possible value for the clipped pixels. Their highlight recovery is much more subtle. It is an additive process whereby RAW Developer is actually guessing and adding data to the file.

    I do not use Lightroom much, so I won't speculate on what Adobe is or isn't doing.

    It is important to understand what your raw editor is doing with highlights. Once you understand what it is doing, then you have a better idea of what EC adjustment will work in the field and subsequently back home at the computer when it comes time for post-processing.

    Again, I agree with the Chuck's approach because if shooting at low ISO's, the shadows are usually clean enough that the lower point of histogram can be boosted to the open up the shadows and the camera maintained the highlights because of the conservative EC setting.

    I also agree with Jaap, if shooting at upper ISO's, you've got to pick who your are going to save. The upper ISO has less dynamic range, so there will be causalities. Generally, at low ISO's I'll shoot landscapes at around -1/3 EC to preserve highlights in clouds and other similar specular highlights - such as bright spots people's noses, cheeks and foreheads. At high ISO I'll try to shoot +1/3 to 2/3's if the shutter speed and ISO speed are workable. I try to avoid ISO 1600 and higher, so sometimes I'll under-expose a pinch just to keep the ISO a bit lower. That's a long way of saying what Jono said

    Figuring out the camera histogram and the best EC setting is only 1/2 the equation. When it comes to raw files, the raw editor is the other 1/2 of the equation and if trying to maximize file quality, then the raw editor's behavior will figure into some of the shooting decisions.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    You all are very much more experienced and versed than me on this subject. All I can add is that at low ISO's, what appears to be blown highlights are very recoverable. So it does not surprise me to hear it can happen at high ISO's. I use Lightroom and I am amazed at what detail comes back. I rarely shoot above 800 ISO, though. Just habit from film days when I never used film higher than this. I will on occasion go to 1200. I shoot 95% at low ISO's. Never had a need for 2000 something, though I understand it is there and folks like using high ISO's. Maybe I should give it a try. Frank

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    Subscriber Member Chuck Jones's Avatar
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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    John, indeed you and I shoot and process the same way. If I want to blow out a highlight, that is something I can always do as a creative decision in post. But a blown highlight, as you said, is a blown highlight that simply can't be recovered and are extremely tedious to reconstruct afterwards. I ALWAYS save the highlights shooting digital.

    I find with the M9 shot at base 160 ISO, I have several stops I can open up the shadows if I need to, have little to no noise to deal with, have the widest dynamic range possible (higher than most people realize), and the color richness is preserved. In other words, everything is there to work with, it is missing nothing. Like John I also use RAW Developer and have for years processing my finals. I love that RAW converter and the way Brian has built it. His color profiles are also WAY better than the other program I use, Lightroom. Processing from Lightroom isn't the same, but the selection process and digital asset management in Lightroom or Aperture are both superior. I also believe Brian's sharpening algorithm in RAW Developer is one of the best in existence, with unquestioned degree of control. I believe he told me he is working on a Lightroom plugin of his sharpener.

    Shooting at high ISO, heck your after as much light as you can get, so anything goes. I still hold my -1/3 stop EV though, as even noisy high ISO shots suffer if the highlights are blown, and yes doing that is probably limiting a third a stop but again I find that of great value for the mostly people work I do. I never shoot the M9 at anything higher than 800 ISO, and do try to avoid that if at all possible. I'm blessed in being able to hand hold pretty long shutter speeds steady, so for me I would much rather be shooting a slow shutter unless the action is moving too fast. Those situations, add light or you just got to live with it.

    This all applies to color, by the way. B&W only, I will crank it up as high as I need it to get a shot, since no worries about color noise, depth, or purity. I'm also not as concerned with the highlights knowing the final print will be in B&W, as I don't personally find blown highlights nearly as offensive as I do in color work.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    My gut feel is that the M9 overexposes by as much as a stop at ISO 160. Meaning from the exposure point there is more dynamic range to the black point than to the white clip. In other words it preserves too much shadow at the expense of highlights. I keep my M9 at -2/3 permanently with some adjustments to the default LR settings. The M8 also did this to some extent, but the DR increase in the M9 largely appears to be reduced noise, which increases the distance between the black point and metering point.

    It would be nice to be able to tell the camera to shoot at ISO 160 sensitivity but set the meter to 250... just like with film. Then leave the exposure adjustment for more temporary purposes (though I personally never actually use it for this).

    Edit: the dpreview M8 review shows dynamic range at ISO 160 as 5.2 EV shadow range and 3.2 EV highlight, for a total of 8.4 EV. (On page 14.) The M9 has more shadow range for sure. So that's well over a stop overexposed. (~3 stops of highlight range is worse than RVP50!) Shadow range of course is lost with increased sensitivity as the black point creeps up with noise.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Without repeating much of what has been said, when using the M9 at low ISO, I generally follow the logic and protocol of Chuck & John. When the ISO is raised beyond 1250, Jaap's suggestions are warranted and good advice, in my opinion.

    At low ISO, I preserve most highlights and avoid blowing them out, because its often difficult (and sometimes impossible to recover what's essentually lost. At low ISO's, especially baseline (160), noise levels are extremely low and so it's possible to open up the shadows with much deleterious effect. As the ISO range is increased due to low light, the histogram becomes more important to watch and although I try to expose more for shadow detail, to avoid excessive noise. I will though watch for exposing the highlights (those specifically below spectral levels), in order that as much highlight detail is preserved, but not at the expense of losing shadow detail due to rising noise levels A balanced approach is carefully followed for both ends of the histogram in this case.

    Dave (D&A)

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    When I refer to the clipping indicators, I am not actually over exposing highlights. I don't know about the M9, but on the DMR and M8, the clipping indicator comes on well before the area is clipped. If you just have a few small pin points of red flashing, you should not have anything that is over exposed when the raw conversion is made. It may take some searching, but I thought the clipping was at 235 or 240 in the firmware.

    Robert

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    230 I think, that being the clipping point of most printers.
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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Just FYI: I have just added a FAQ on high - ISO shooting in the M9 FAQ on LUF.
    To make it perfect I would like to request comments from experts - and non experts from this forum as well Please comment in PM's, not in the thread, as it takes the mods so much work to clean it up. Any comments are welcome and will be taken into consideration.

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Quote Originally Posted by Jan Brittenson View Post
    My gut feel is that the M9 overexposes by as much as a stop at ISO 160. Meaning from the exposure point there is more dynamic range to the black point than to the white clip. In other words it preserves too much shadow at the expense of highlights. I keep my M9 at -2/3 permanently with some adjustments to the default LR settings.
    Hi Jan
    You need to be quite careful with this kind of statement - I'm not for a second doubting that you're right with your M9.
    I have two, one which is kept at -1/3 in good light and 0 in bad, the other which is kept at 0 in good light and +1/3 in bad.
    I think that they probably vary quite a lot (my feeling with mine is that the difference is more like 1/2 stop).

    But where I quite agree with you, is that it tends to preserve too much shadow at the expense of the highlights - and that it's much better to set your camera up to avoid clipping the highlights (slightly too dark shadows don't look too bad - blown out highlights look horrid).

    all the best

    Just this guy you know

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Hi guys,

    Just catching up with this thread again after originally posting it. Wow, there's so much info here to digest, play with and think about since then. Thanks to all of you!!

    In particular, it's good to know that the M9 captures more info than shown by the histogram. I'm not completely sure yet, but from reading all this feedback, and what I saw that prompted me to post this originally, it seems that more info is at the lower end than the higher end. To summarize, it seems that if you are shooting in daylight, you don't want to lose highlights ( as jonathan just said above and Chuck and John debated earlier ) and optimizing for that ( possibly by dialing in -1/3rd ) seems to make sense. Shooting at high ISO's you typically want most of the information at the lower end and thus letting specular highlights go as described by Jaap may be best.

    After 3 weeks with the M9, all I can say is that it is the best camera I've owned and I look forward to playing with some of these techniques above to figure some of these things out

    -Vinay

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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Vinay, just seeing this post now. Not much to add other than what's already been said, primarily that each image needs its own exposure, as JAAP said, and that the histogram can be pessimistic, which is a great way to put it.

    Also agree with Chuck's post to keep ISO as low as allowable, as dynamic range does constrict, to my eyes, at ISO 640 and beyond.

    Vinay's is a great guy and just developing his Leica set up. He has a lot of great questions! Welcome here, Vinay!
    Ashwin Rao
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    Re: M9 - using the histogram

    Thanks Ashwin

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