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Thread: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

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    leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    i have been shooting my m9 a lot at iso 800 but after reading some of the threads here am i better off underexposing a bit and shoot at iso 640 and then just brighten in post?

    if this is better why?


    thank you.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    When shooting dark scenes or scenes with deep shadow areas, never (or try to avoid) general brightening. This is what brings out noise... You're always better off getting the exposure right in the first place - or if anything, darkening.

    You can also hide noise sometimes by increasing contrast (or bumping down the dark areas anyway).

    Obviously, lower ISOs are better for noise as well. I try to keep the ISO to 1250, max.

    Nevertheless, proper exposure is perhaps the single most important thing.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
    When shooting dark scenes or scenes with deep shadow areas, never (or try to avoid) general brightening. This is what brings out noise... You're always better off getting the exposure right in the first place - or if anything, darkening.

    You can also hide noise sometimes by increasing contrast (or bumping down the dark areas anyway).

    Obviously, lower ISOs are better for noise as well. I try to keep the ISO to 1250, max.

    Nevertheless, proper exposure is perhaps the single most important thing.
    This is not actually the case with the M9. The M9 is essentially an ISO-less camera. Pushing ISO 160 three stops in Lightroom 4 yields as good, if not better, results than using ISO 1250. Of course, the more light you get to the sensor, the better, but raising ISO in camera is not actually necessary, in terms of IQ. Granted, if you don't raise ISO in camera, you won't have a usable review image on the camera's LCD, so it may not always be practical.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by gooomz View Post
    i have been shooting my m9 a lot at iso 800 but after reading some of the threads here am i better off underexposing a bit and shoot at iso 640 and then just brighten in post?

    if this is better why?


    thank you.
    If you shoot, say, 1/60, f2 at ISO 800, and then shoot again at the same shutter and aperture, but use ISO 640 and then boost the exposure in Lightroom, the latter will be as good, if not better. The same is the case even if you keep the same aperture and shutter and use ISO 160 boosted in LR.

    With the M9 raws, what matters is exposure, meaning shutter and aperture. ISO is just gain after the fact, and raw converter exposure gain works just as well as in-camera ISO with the M9, and it prevents you from blowing highlights.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    This is not actually the case with the M9. The M9 is essentially an ISO-less camera. Pushing ISO 160 three stops in Lightroom 4 yields as good, if not better, results than using ISO 1250. Of course, the more light you get to the sensor, the better, but raising ISO in camera is not actually necessary, in terms of IQ. Granted, if you don't raise ISO in camera, you won't have a usable review image on the camera's LCD, so it may not always be practical.
    Wow, I'm going to have to try this. How do you meter for this and keep speeds hand-held in low light?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by Maggie O View Post
    Wow, I'm going to have to try this. How do you meter for this and keep speeds hand-held in low light?
    Hi, Maggie. It's so easy that it almost feels like cheating. You essentially meter like normal with ISO 160, and, whenever you're in light low enough that the meter shows you're underexposing, you can pick whichever aperture and shutter speed that you'd like, of course knowing that, the more light that hits the sensor, the less noisy your image will be.

    The practical issues with this are that you often won't have a usable image review on the LCD screen, and you'll have to individually adjust the exposure of all of your shots in your raw converter.

    I usually split the difference, and shoot ISO 160 whenever the light is good and ISO 640 whenever the light is low, and I push in the converter from there. Using 2 ISOs usually leaves me with a camera review image that is somewhat usable, even if is a little dark. It's essentially like shooting two different speeds of film and pushing in development.

    It's important to remember that all digital sensors only have one true ISO. After that, we usually amplify the signal after exposure in one of a few ways, depending on the camera design:

    1) raise the ISO in-camera, which adds analogue gain to the signal
    2) raise the ISO in-camera, which adds digital gain to the signal (or some combination of analogue and digital gain)
    3) raise the exposure in the raw converter, which adds digital gain to the signal.

    Some cameras perform better by raising the in-camera gain (ISO,) like Canons, and others perform a little better by raising the raw converter gain, like the M9. It just depends on the sensor and A/D design. Some MFDBs don't actually raise in-camera gain at all when you raise ISO. Meta tags just tell the raw converter to boost the gain under the hood when you import the image. Tricky!
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Well, yes - of course. There's a sensor's native sensitivity - and then there's everything else. That is usually just an algorithm in the firmware saying "amplify the signal X times to represent ISO Y."

    Unfortunately, that concept is wrapped up in a lot of things - the meter, for example. I'd just as soon select an ISO using the ISO button, have my LCD images, etc.

    I get what you're saying though. Rather than let the camera apply its own algorithm - do it yourself via RAW/DNG conversion. The benefits are you can choose from multiple tools (ACR, Apple, Bibble, etc.) and exert more control (exposure, highlights, etc.).

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    The beauty is that you rarely blow highlights with this technique, the noise is slightly lower, and you don't have to take the time to adjust the ISO. The big issue, like you mentioned, is that your LCD review may be dark. That's why I use a couple of ISOs, although I don't review shots in my LCD a lot.

    Metering isn't really an issue. Once I get to the point where my largest aperture and slowest shutter speed (that I want to use) are under exposing, I know that every stop I underexposed is going to be adding a stop of noise in the converter. Metering is one of the easiest things about this technique. It's just like pushing film, but you're not stuck with pushing the whole roll the same amount. You can push each shot a different amount.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
    Well, yes - of course. There's a sensor's native sensitivity - and then there's everything else. That is usually just an algorithm in the firmware saying "amplify the signal X times to represent ISO Y."
    Based on the DxOmark data, there are a variety of native ISO values for the M9. As represented at Sensorgen.info, sensor read noise seems to be very similar at all of them, so it makes little difference what ISO you use as long as you don't choose one which is high enough to clip highlights or low enough that your software can't brighten it enough.

    Read noise is marginally lower at ISO 640 than at ISOs higher than that, so if you're looking to eek out a tiny bit more image quality for lowlight, handheld photography, I wouldn't go higher than ISO 640.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    I'd been thinking I want to experiment with this ISO-less shooting style but it slipped my mind to give it a test since the last time we had this discussion. Thanks for bringing it up again.

    I made a matched pair of exposures, set manually*to f/2.4 @ 1/45 second, at ISO 160 and ISO 1250. I brought the DNGs into LR, set the color temperature to 3400K, tint to +1, and set the ISO 160 exposure to +3 EV exposure adjustment. I nipped them to 1:1 in the Compare view and did a screen grab, grabbed the whole frame from the Navigator view on the left so you could see the portion of the frame, and created this composite to show the result:


    Far as I can tell, modulo my ability to hold still and focus properly, there's very little to no difference at all in the output image quality.

    This implies two things to me:

    - Lightroom's exposure control allows up to +/- 5 EV adjustment*range. Effectively, using an M9 this way nets up to ISO 5120 as possible rather than just ISO 2500.

    - The key thing to be careful of is photosite saturation. Once saturated, there's no way to adjust the exposure downwards and pull back detail in the saturated area.

    What it opens up is the ability to look to metering purely for that purpose: to prevent photosite saturation. Otherwise, set the aperture and exposure time that best suits your subject and put ALL of your exposure finesse into post processing, setting base and curve relationships.

    Might as well turn off JPEG production entirely and operate the camera without any previews at all... Everything you're doing is going to be seen properly only after you bring the exposures into the image processing environment and bring the numbers up into the appropriate range.

    Quite an intriguing way to work. I'll have to give it a go. Whether the processing in LR or other tools is always superior to how the camera elevates the effective ISO ... well, that remains to be seen, for me. It's worth some playing with.

    What a curious and versatile camera the M9 is. ;-)
    Godfrey - GDGPhoto Flickr Stream
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Nice demonstration, Godfrey. If the DxOmark data are correct, an ISO 640 image pushed two stops should look slightly better than an ISO 2560 image with matched exposure (shutter speed and aperture).

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640


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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by k-hawinkler View Post
    Yep, although this discussion doesn't have that Jaybob guy who couldn't quite get his mind around the concept in use, no matter what any of us tried to explain to him. He got really upset with me in that thread.

    It looks like Godfrey pretty much nailed it in his post above.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    I did a lot of testing and pushing scenes with a lot of green/blue gets you plenty of banding. Otherwise neutrally lit scenes push very well.

    The following are both ISO160 files pushed:



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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Interesting, Daniel. I've not seen any banding disadvantages, yet. How far did you push these? Which raw converter? Also, have you tested your SD card to see if it causes banding, especially when shooting quickly in a series?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Well, banding is an interesting issue:

    http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-...es-gone-4.html

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by k-hawinkler View Post
    Well, banding is an interesting issue:

    http://www.l-camera-forum.com/leica-...es-gone-4.html
    Yeah, I've not been able to isolate the causes of occasional banding that I see. I thought that I saw it more when using a high ISO, rather than when pushing in the converter, but Daniel's post is making me second guess that.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by thrice View Post
    I did a lot of testing and pushing scenes with a lot of green/blue gets you plenty of banding. Otherwise neutrally lit scenes push very well.
    As an aside, Nik Dfine does an amazing job of removing banding like that.
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by Amin View Post
    As an aside, Nik Dfine does an amazing job of removing banding like that.
    That's what I use on the rare occasion where the noise is fairly obvious and my other tricks haven't worked well. Though it's very simple. Noise Ninja has worked well for me in the past, but I haven't used it w/Leica images.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    I have been traveling the last couple of days so I missed this thread. I can confirm Douglas findings, since I have done many tests after he told me about it, and came to the same conclusions. It's curious that my M9 doesn't show the banding I see in Daniel's shot. I have pushed a few shots at iso 2500 by over a stop and couldn't notice any banding at all. I believe it is body specific. However, I think shooting compressed may exacerbate the problem. This said, even though I like to underexpose to preserve the highlights, I confess to be a "chimper" and therefore have to shoot at higher iso in order to see a proper image review.
    M262 ZM 25/2.8 35/1.4 50/2 85/2

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Daniel can certainly correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks to me that he boosted shadows in those photos quite a bit, along with boosting the overall exposure, which would mean a pretty high ISO in the shadow areas. I'd imagine that the banding would have been an issue with either technique, unless it is an SD card issue. Oddly enough, it was the banding that I noticed when using ISO 2500 that initially led me to investigate whether the M9 was ISO-less in the first place.

    I'm certainly going to keep an eye on the banding. I usually push from ISO 640 in lowlight.

    p.s. Of course, this all depends on your raw converter, too. I've only tried it with LR4. Other converters may be more or less successful.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Btw, only in the latest firmware version 1.196 has Leica attempted to properly control the battery/voltage of the M9. So, depending on which memory card you use, and which activities happen simultaneously in the M9, for example storing an image and chimping, and using a higher ISO all may have an effect on the banding.

    Let's hope that doesn't become an issue again in the M-240.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    Daniel can certainly correct me if I'm wrong, but it looks to me that he boosted shadows in those photos quite a bit, along with boosting the overall exposure, which would mean a pretty high ISO in the shadow areas.
    ...
    p.s. Of course, this all depends on your raw converter, too. I've only tried it with LR4. Other converters may be more or less successful.
    Hi Douglas,
    Yes, I pushed the shadows a fair bit to retain highlight detail.
    I'll check the firmware and card out as this is a new M9P, I was also using an LED flash in the shot with the banding so maybe that has some EM noise

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by thrice View Post
    I was also using an LED flash in the shot with the banding so maybe that has some EM noise
    What kind of a LED flash were you using? If it is continuous light, you may want to check if it uses a PWM (pulse width modulator) to power the LEDs. If the pulse frequency of the PWM is not high enough, the effect is like a fluorescent tube light flicker. Many inexpensive LED lights have this problem and are unsuitable for photography (besides that it is better to have LED emitters with high CRI which again jacks up the costs).

    It is highly unlikely to be EM noise.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Just did a quick test and very minimal banding in both cases with or without flash on an ISO160 shot pushed 5 stops. *shrug* who knows but something must have caused interference on the day.

    The flash is a Manfrotto ML360HP which has a flash setting 2 stops brighter than the maximum continuous light setting.

    Makes an excellent fill light in low light conditions and comes with gels to warm things up. Great in Tungsten especially.
    Last edited by thrice; 24th December 2012 at 17:01.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    for highest low light quality and least noise then i am thinking to shoot at iso 160 at night!

    i did some initial test shots, and to me my images underexposed by 2-3 stops shot at iso 160 and pushed in aperture3 have less noise then those same images shot at iso 800.

    cool stuff.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by gooomz View Post
    for highest low light quality and least noise then i am thinking to shoot at iso 160 at night!

    i did some initial test shots, and to me my images underexposed by 2-3 stops shot at iso 160 and pushed in aperture3 have less noise then those same images shot at iso 800.

    cool stuff.
    Good to know that this also works in Aperture3.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    in your experience do you achieve higher image quality shooting at 160 and pushing later or is image quality the same for you?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by gooomz View Post
    in your experience do you achieve higher image quality shooting at 160 and pushing later or is image quality the same for you?
    I'd say roughly the same. I believe the pushed the version is technically cleaner, but it is pretty close, from what I've seen so far.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    if the results are the same then why push in post rather then change the iso and me able to preview on the LCD?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by gooomz View Post
    if the results are the same then why push in post rather then change the iso and me able to preview on the LCD?
    It's faster to never change ISO, and you rarely blow highlights, thus maximizing your dynamic range.

    Either way, its also proof of concept, and you can use it in more subtle ways. For instance, in the case of the OP's question, you don't have to bother with incremental ISO adjustments from ISO 640 to 800. Just keep it at ISO 640 and push in post.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    any idea if the monochrom is also "iso less"?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by gooomz View Post
    any idea if the monochrom is also "iso less"?
    My guess would be yes, since it has the same basic sensor and ADC design, but I don't have any first hand knowledge of it, so I'm not sure.

    It'll be interesting to see if the M 240 behaves similarly. If the CMOS design is more like Sony, it probably will. If it is more like Canon, it probably won't.
    Last edited by douglasf13; 28th December 2012 at 10:40.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Every camera is "ISO less." ISO is a function - be it hardware, software or both. Sensors have a built-in, or "native" sensitivity. Everything else is amplification of the signal (and as a by-product, the noise).

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
    Every camera is "ISO less." ISO is a function - be it hardware, software or both. Sensors have a built-in, or "native" sensitivity. Everything else is amplification of the signal (and as a by-product, the noise).
    True, although the term "ISO-less" tends to be used in the case of cameras that don't benefit from having the ISO boosted in-camera. I'm sure that we could come up with a better term for it. Any ideas, anyone?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    This ISO-less idea piqued my curiosity so I pulled out the X2 and did the same test.

    The X2's Sony sensor is not so "ISO-less" as the M9. Taking the same sequence of exposures (ISO 100 and ISO 800) and applying +3 EV to the ISO 100 exposure brings in a color shift to the magenta/violet, even after normalizing the WB settings on both images. At 1:1, the "pushed" image's edge and detail quality was slightly degraded from the normal exposure at ISO 800. Other adjustments (to channel color saturation and tonal map) brought them closer together.

    The two exposures are close but not quite the same, like the M9's were, so I'd say this technique isn't really the best methodology for the X2. I've found with proper exposure I can make very satisfactory images with the X2 even at ISO 6400 and 128000 so I'll just continue as normal with that camera. The M9 seems more worthwhile to play with this exposure technique for its other possibilities in shooting methodology.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    That's interesting, Godfrey. I would have guessed that the X2 would work similarly, since I believe that it has an EXMOR sensor, but I guess not. That just goes to show that it really depends on several factors.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    I have been following this thread with interest. I am new to all of this so my first question is -- What is banding and where is it in the photos of the band that thrice took? I see grain, but what should I look for as far as banding goes? I know this is a stupid question, but I have to ask it anyway.

    If one were to try this out on an MM what should be the ISO settings one would recommend to start with on that camera?
    Last edited by algrove; 28th December 2012 at 12:37.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    I have been following this thread with interest. I am new to all of this so my first question is -- What is banding and where is it in the band photos. I see grain, but what should I look for as far as banding goes? I know this is a stupid question, but I have to ask it anyway.

    If one were to try this out on an MM what should be the ISO settings one would recommend to start with on that camera?
    If you look at Daniel's (thrice) second pic of the band above, you'll notice horizontal lines going across the image. That's the banding.

    With the MM, I would start with trying something like ISO 5000 at the "correct" exposure, and then use the same shutter/aperture at ISO 320. If you push the ISO 320 exposure in your raw converter so that it equals the ISO 5000 file, you can see which one looks better.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Yes, I see them now. Thanks. Strange they do not appear to my eyes in the first photo. Why would it be color dependent?

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    Yes, I see them now. Thanks. Strange they do not appear to my eyes in the first photo. Why would it be color dependent?
    Banding is sneaky with the M9, with various causes, but I'm not sure what caused it in Daniel's second photo, and I'm also not sure if the banding would have still been there had Daniel used a higher ISO. I've personally not seen banding using this technique that wouldn't also show up by raising ISO.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Douglas-
    You have good eyes and the experience when looking at images, even on the net.

    If you could do me a favor, take a look the the thread "Fun with the M Monochrom..." page 7, post #671. Double click it to enlarge it and then tell me if you see any strange pattern all over the image. Thanks.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    ^ There is no post 671 on page 7... It's on page 14.

    There's definitely a pattern in the image.
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by Double Negative View Post
    ^ There is no post 671 on page 7... It's on page 14.

    There's definitely a pattern in the image.
    That's a pretty interesting, waffle-y pattern. I've not seen that on the M9.
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    It was taken on the MM. It must be a difference in monitors, but for me it is on page 7 and #671 (under the thread "Fun with the Leica M Monochrom" started by Brad Husick) which is a soldier's statute taken at night. I have a 30" IPS matte monitor and I see nothing like a wavy pattern just fine grain since it was shot at ISO 2500.
    Last edited by algrove; 28th December 2012 at 15:36.

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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by douglasf13 View Post
    That's a pretty interesting, waffle-y pattern. I've not seen that on the M9.
    Indeed. Just guessing that in the absence of Bayer demosaicing, this what banding really looks like.
    M262 ZM 25/2.8 35/1.4 50/2 85/2
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Ahh, probably different posts/page defaults we each have set. In any event, that link should take you right to it...

    The pattern might look different depending on each person's monitor to some degree... On my (less than ideal) laptop display, the pattern is quite obvious.
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    It was taken on the MM. It must be a difference in monitors, but for me it is on page 7 and #671 (under the thread "Fun with the Leica M Monochrom" started by Brad Husick) which is a soldier's statute taken at night. I have a 30" IPS matte monitor and I see nothing like a wavy pattern just fine grain since it was shot at ISO 2500.
    That pattern is pretty obvious on my 24" Matte IPS, 15" Macbook Retina, and my smart phone, fwiw. I wonder what is going on with your monitor, if you're not able to see the banding in some of these pics?
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    Quote Originally Posted by algrove View Post
    It was taken on the MM. It must be a difference in monitors, but for me it is on page 7 and #671 (under the thread "Fun with the Leica M Monochrom" started by Brad Husick) which is a soldier's statute taken at night. I have a 30" IPS matte monitor and I see nothing like a wavy pattern just fine grain since it was shot at ISO 2500.
    Ditch that monitor. Eizo or Quato - worth your dime.
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    Re: leica m9 iso 800 vs 640

    I took a look on my Macbook Air and it is on page 14 on that computer.

    Now on to the important thing. I see no wavy patterns, lines or anything else on that Air either when looking at that image.

    I guess the only way for me to see it would be to print it as Vivek had earlier suggested and cautioned against.

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