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Thread: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

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    Subscriber Member Jonathon Delacour's Avatar
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    Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Although I don't have a D3, I followed with interest the threads Jono Slack started (A personal thank you to RobSteve and Auto White Balance, Nature and why not to do it!) in response to RobSteve's advice about auto white balance in the D3 Color Calibration settings in ACR thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by robsteve View Post
    When I shoot scenics I will tend to put the camera (DMR, M8) on daylight and deal with it in processing of the RAW files. This gives you a starting point as if you were shooting slide film and the AWB is not adjusting out all that nice warm evening light.
    It was clear that Jono's posts offered convincing (photographic) evidence that RobSteve's advice was sound. And yet, although I shot some tests with my D300 which were equally persuasive, for whatever reasons -- stubbornness? stupidity? -- I just couldn't shake the Auto White Balance habit. (In my own defence, I shoot a lot of the time in mixed interior light, for which auto white balance usually delivers excellent results.)

    A couple of days ago, when I was taking some pictures in sunlight to contribute to the APO-Lanthar 180/4 thread, I realized that I'd forgotten to switch the white balance from Cloudy to Auto. I made the change and continued shooting. Here are two consecutive images:

    White Balance: Cloudy



    White Balance: Auto



    Neither of these looks or feels right: Cloudy is slightly too warm, Auto is too cool.

    I can't help thinking that if I'd set the white balance to Daylight, the result would have been pretty close to what I recall the scene being like.

    Interestingly, Lloyd Chambers made a similar suggestion in a recent weblog post titled Nikon D3 white balance:

    I’ve had generally excellent or at least pleasing results with the auto white balance of the Nikon D3. But in spite of its large built-in database of scenes, I’ve found that it often cannot grok exposures which are dominated by an overall color...

    Its variable results are why I often just shoot on Daylight white balance (sunlight or cloudy or shade) in any kind of outdoor scene; I get much more predictable results frame-to-frame.

    I hereby make a public commitment to NOT use Auto white balance whenever I'm shooting outdoors.

    Just one question, though: both RobSteve and Lloyd suggest using Daylight WB no matter what the outdoor light. Even though it's slightly more work, would one get even more predictable results by matching the white balance to the prevailing light: sunlight, cloudy, or shade? Or is that more trouble than it's worth?
    Last edited by Jonathon Delacour; 25th June 2008 at 05:41. Reason: To clarify which camera I was using

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    HI Jonathon
    Well, I quite agree with your samples and conclusion - but I think it's ALWAYS better using Daylight.
    I'm convinced that this isn't just the case for Nikon - if you're shooting outside, you don't want the camera making value judgements about the colour, and so it's best to shoot 'daylight' under pretty much all conditions - at the very worst you'll have a consistently incorrect WB which is easy to batch adjust. However, I very rarely adjust it - shooting 'daylight' at sunset seems to produce the colours I see.

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  3. #3
    dlew308
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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Do you shoot in raw? Auto does a decent job most of the time.

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by dlew308 View Post
    Do you shoot in raw? Auto does a decent job most of the time.
    Yes, always RAW, and no it certainly doesn't - at least, not in natural light, it produces a nasty yellow cast, and it swings wildly from too cold to too warm, especially in evening light:

    Look at this thread:

    Auto White Balance and why not to use it

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    Subscriber Member Jonathon Delacour's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    HI Jonathon
    Well, I quite agree with your samples and conclusion - but I think it's ALWAYS better using Daylight.
    I'm convinced that this isn't just the case for Nikon - if you're shooting outside, you don't want the camera making value judgements about the colour, and so it's best to shoot 'daylight' under pretty much all conditions - at the very worst you'll have a consistently incorrect WB which is easy to batch adjust. However, I very rarely adjust it - shooting 'daylight' at sunset seems to produce the colours I see.
    Jono, thanks for clarifying this. What wasn't obvious to me -- although it is now -- is that the camera is also making a value judgement about the color with Cloudy or Shade WB (albeit perhaps not as much as with Auto). Am I correct in assuming that you also use Daylight WB with your M8 outdoors? And what about your E3? (See below.)

    Quote Originally Posted by dlew308 View Post
    Do you shoot in raw? Auto does a decent job most of the time.
    Actually, as Jono just wrote, I think the point of this and the other threads is that in outdoor scenes that "are dominated by an overall color" (as Lloyd puts it) -- "an overwhelming yellow cast in greens in late evening light" in Jono's original example, a forest scene in shade in Lloyd's -- Auto rarely does a decent job. it's all about consistency, as Jono explained the issue in the earlier thread:

    Quote Originally Posted by jonoslack View Post
    So, although interesting, I don't think this addresses what I see as the real problem with the Nikon RAW files - which is that the yellow cast changes with the light - which means that you really cannot do a preset which sorts it properly. This is not the case with either Leica (pretty good) and Olympus (excellent).
    So setting Daylight, rather than Auto, eliminates this variability, as Guy pointed out:

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    What he was missing is constancy . Each frame jumping around to different color temps and more important tints. This way you can select maybe the 30 you shot and adjust a little warmer. Just really makes it visually easier to edit and work.

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Delacour View Post
    Jono, thanks for clarifying this. What wasn't obvious to me -- although it is now -- is that the camera is also making a value judgement about the color with Cloudy or Shade WB (albeit perhaps not as much as with Auto). Am I correct in assuming that you also use Daylight WB with your M8 outdoors? And what about your E3? (See below.)
    Hi Jonathon
    Well, the answer is that I now use daylight with everything. The M8, is easy - I accept that the AWB is improved, but it's still variable, so it goes on daylight.

    The E3 is more difficult as it does such a good job with AWB (almost as good as the E1). But I still feel I'm getting better, more 'familiar' and consistent results keeping the WB on daylight.

    I think that the key issue here is not really whether a camera does good AWB or not, but that if you are shooting in daylight to catch subtle nuances of light, then you don't want the camera trying to make mid greys mid grey!

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Yes i think you are just better off overall just going daylight all day long. Even my Phase back is jumping on AWB so just putting it on daylight i can at least visually see more constant results than i can make any adjustment I may need and apply to all or some. AWB on any camera just gets fooled. Some obviously better at it than most but the Nikons get some ugly yellow going on that drove me nuts and Jono as well. I think maybe the best course of action all around. Jono deals with this more so his advice on this is spot on with the Nikons which he has been shooting a lot with.

    Jono and I posted the same time but I would again follow his advice, he is older than me and I always look up to my elders. LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post

    Jono and I posted the same time but I would again follow his advice, he is older than me and I always look up to my elders. LOL
    HEY!!!!
    I'm 18, how old are you?

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Been going in reverse for a long time now down to 16 and counting. LOL
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    You know you really need to get over and visit us Yankees. Come for our July 17th outing. Nice GetDPI folks will be there and spend the day together. I can't tell you how much everyone would enjoy your company for the day. Grab the wife and jump a plane ride over. No excuses on travel, I'm coming from the Hell of the Desert to be there
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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  11. #11
    dlew308
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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    ok i'm gonna start using daylight WB now

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by Guy Mancuso View Post
    You know you really need to get over and visit us Yankees. Come for our July 17th outing. Nice GetDPI folks will be there and spend the day together. I can't tell you how much everyone would enjoy your company for the day. Grab the wife and jump a plane ride over. No excuses on travel, I'm coming from the Hell of the Desert to be there
    Thank You Guy
    I'm touched, and I'd love to come . . . .
    but from 14-16th I'm working in Holland, on the 17th we're hosting the village book club, and on the 19th I seem to be doing another of those wedding things (every time I swear I won't do it again, but I seem to have 3 this summer).
    Mind you, I'm not sure that anyone would enjoy my company, but you'd certainly enjoy Emma's company

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    Re: Nikon D3/D300 Auto White Balance

    Quote Originally Posted by dlew308 View Post
    ok i'm gonna start using daylight WB now
    Excellent - I think you'll find it's a revelation (certainly was for me)
    Incidentally, that's a lovely shot in your avatar

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