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Thread: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    It seems with any debate regarding nikon verse any other equipment ..the issue comes up about “how bad the color is “ or “how much post processing it takes to get it right” . I never see much of this in the equipment tests or from reviewers that use the nikon equipment regularly . But my own experience is that the .NEF files can have a yellow tint making the greens too warm and desaturating the blues .

    To be completely open I shoot enough with the nikon D3s /D3X and the D7000 to understand the color bias or signature of a .NEF file but my primary equipment is the Leica M9 . For a while I was getting pretty close with a preset called M9 on a D3 ....established to move the color of the D3 toward the rendition of the M9 . I like the M9 files especially in the new version of LR and for my purposes they provide a decent reference of “what do you consider good color” .

    Each manufacturer creates its own signature creation of the raw files . I still remember a lunch in the Leica cafe where the designers were debating how warm to make the output of the M8 . But two other factors seem critical:

    1. The glass itself can impart a color tint ...the older Nikkors are warm and the whites look yellowish . I have always found the Zeiss glass to render cooler than the Nikkors and because of the strong macro contrast they often have a blue black look to the shadows . The Leica R glass has the best balance and shooting a Leica R lens on a D3X looks a lot like a Leica rendering (not quite but closer). The newest Nikkors have lost the yellow bias and by new I mean the 70-200/VR2 ,the 24/1.4,35/14 and the 85/1.4 G lenses . (don t use the 24-70/2.8 as your reference its not the same even though its nano coated ).

    2. The post processing must be important . If you use a Phase back you use C1 right ? Its matched and obviously brings out the very best color you can get . Would you use LR for a Phase file ...didn t think so . For a lot of subjects ..the color of the adobe products is decent and with the proper calibration and presets it seems that the potential must be there to get good color. Yet when I ask Nikon pro (the ones they pay) about color they all say use NX2 . (I know the interface sucks but the new version is reported as much better) .

    I haven t gotten to where I want with my .NEF and maybe it can t be done .

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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    I really like the colors from both my D3x and my M9.

    I can't say that I have a real preference. Unlike you, I am never in a situation where matching colors is important.

    Even in my upcoming gallery show I have mixed M9 and D3x images but I won't try to match them.

    The M9 images are of MMA fighters in the octagon, mostly shot with my Noctilux wide open.

    The D3x images are studio shots of fighters and models, mostly with my 24 f/1.4, but not wide open.

    None of these images depends on 'accurate' color. I care more about color that looks amazing. Both cameras deliver.

    Best,

    Bill

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    Good color is in the eyes of the beholder and it varies depending on purpose.
    Almost all cameras such as Leicas and Nikons boost saturation in little peaks especially in the reds. This is done to make it more "pleasing" . Nikon does it too, but it is tuned for a different demographic. One other cause is the specific filter bandpass used in their bayer filter array. The IQ180 tends to have a fairly low level of color bias depending on the icc profile one applies to the image.
    -bob

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    Workshop Member ptomsu's Avatar
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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    I have been through all of that and even sold a Nikon system in the hope that a Sony Alpha system would do better.

    From my experience I only can say - forget this!

    It is definitely true that different cameras will render colors differently, but you always have the option to change in post processing - either automatically through a specific profile, or manually which I prefer.

    Finally I must say that I never have seen so accurate colors as coming from Hasselblad in MFD and Olympus in DSLRs. But I would never again change brand just because of that! There are much more important things as camera adjustability or lens lineup etc.

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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    i actually really like what LR3 does with NEF files. i find its rendering more neutral, and with a lot more detail and less noise than nikon can manage themselves.

    i've given NX2 multiple chances, but every time it seems like it wants to do something similar to the in camera jpegs, even if the end result is slightly better in most ways. but i HATE nikon jpegs...they just look atrocious to me (which is a shame, because they look good on the back of the camera).

    of course, accurate color isn't really something i worry about, so long as it looks good. and with LR3 and at most a curves layer in photoshop, i don't find that to be an issue with my nikons...or even mixing old glass (28-70/2.8) with new glass (85/1.4G).
    --David

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    Of course good color is in the eye of the beholder and varies with subject ..this is easy to see in the various preset ,camera styles etc that favor landscape,portraits etc. Yet some camera systems (including raw conversion and post processing ) consistently produce brilliant landscapes or excellent skin tones . Leaf backs and Dalsa chips are respected for there great skin tones as an example . The Leica DMR had color that IMHO was better than Kodachrome . I see really excellent color in the new Fuji cameras . And there is no shortage of those that endorse the Sony A900 color .

    Yet when I look at my own work and the samples of others using Nikon cameras I see less saturation and often ruddy or yellow skin tones. I also see an overly warm rendering of greens . I have been able to correct this and “season to taste “ but this has not been easy or consistent . (I would say that the D3X file is way easier to work with than the D3 /D700 or even the D3S ).

    I would prefer a raw file like the S2 produces ..its conservative in the sense that its biased to a bright ,clean, neutral rendering and now that LR has been tuned and calibrated for the files ..its easy to create a beautiful rendering with simple curves and sharpening presets . So in my book the S2 has a big advantage in consistent clean color that can be easily tuned to a specific application.

    For some applications consistent ,accurate and attractive ( as defined by the photographer or his client) seems to be an important criteria for selecting a system. Personally I care a lot more about getting consistent (to my standard ) color than the edge sharpness of a wide angle shot at F1.4. Thought it might be worth considering .

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    Administrator Bob's Avatar
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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    back in the late 60's I was part of a team that analyzed color rendition and human response. We used north american, Japanese, and european subjects and presented them with a large number of images to select what they considered pleasing.
    First off, I really doubt that most folks would accept "accurate" color. It really is pretty drab compared to what we have been accustomed to .
    The North american audience had a distinct preference toward moderately high saturation, punchier reds, subdued greens and blues with a slightly red hue roatation. Japanese audiences liked even more saturation, skin tones rotated toward red, but liked blues more to the cyan than the North Americans. They also liked their greens rotated toward blue and over-all color balance a bit warm. Europeans liked a LOT of blue saturation, greens rotated toward the yellow and almost fluorescent reds. This is a bit of a simplification since color perception is very subjective and the preferences varied depending on the illuminant. D50 although an ISO standard exists in very few actual shooting situations and discontinuous spectra complicates things even further in mixed lighting situations.
    What we saw was that various camera makers, cognizant as they were in the consumer demographic, produce cameras tuned to their tastes. To make matters worse, the "auto" white balance strategies that have evolved over time have also introduced another variable.
    As far as I have measured (which is only a few cameras BTW but do include the Phase IQ180 and P65+ as well as a nikon D3, a Canon 1DsIII and a Leica M8) I find that the medium format backs come closest to "accurate" in their raw files.
    None of the others were ore accurate with many quite far off and different in their bias. Raw processors add a complication, with those that can use icc profiles being more flexible and actually allowing folks to make their own variations. I have not has an S2 in my possession long enough to test but looking at the files I see most folks post, it is a continuation of the Leica "European-biased" tradition. Lightroom and ACR both have their own profiles which although not strictly icc based, have a small set of control points and adjustments to color rendition. I will not argue with anybody's likes or dislikes concerning color preference, but I will argue against claims made by anyone that a particular camera produces more "accurate" results. Actually, with icc one can usually mimic any camera with another; it is just a matter of picking the bias YOU like and making it happen. OK full disclosure: I HATE HATE HATE lightroom and acr just because they tweak color in their stock camera profiles SO MUCH, but they sure are convenient.
    -bob

    p.s. Accurate files appear to most viewers to be flat and under-saturated and too blue
    p.p.s. All this is true for film too compare kodachrome, ektachrome, provia, etc, etc

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    Senior Member Lars's Avatar
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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    BBC aired a documentary last year about color perception, I forgot the title but it was quite interesting.

    An outback tribe in Africa was studied WRT color perception, specifically the ability to distinguish between close tones of color, like blues and greens. While the test subjects were unable to tell the difference between different shades of blue that seem quite obviously different to us, they had extremely fine perception of greens.

    The researchers speculated that our brain is trained to distinguish color based on actual needs in life. So people who live in a more green environment would develop more nuanced vision of green hues. And so forth.

    Now, me being a city boy doesn't bode well hehe. I must say that I didn't see much different in color separation of green in Nikon D700 and Sony A900 raw files, whereas for Jono it was enough of a difference for him to stop using Nikon.

    Another thing that I think needs to be adressed in this thread is the filtration spectrum of the bayer filter.
    Monochrome: http://mochro.com

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    Workshop Member glenerrolrd's Avatar
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    Re: Whats wrong with Nikon s Color?

    Bob

    Great insights . I remember the study that you reference and its pretty easy to see the bias just in published work .

    I understand color matching and ICC profiles ..I am the only one in our family thats not in the graphic arts and printing industry . What I have not seen in the ability to match color renditions between systems ..so the concepts of M9 color on a D3 hash t been possible for me.

    I do understand that other dimensions of image quality (macro,micro contrast ,color depth,even resolution ) contribute and can fool the perception of color .

    But really how many photographers can adapt their systems color to another standard ...so from a practical matter ..they take the .NEF and plow it thru LR or ACR using the adobe standard profile . They have several systems and yet often a single POV on whats good color .

    So I would disagree that its “easy “ to match color between systems ...and therefore out of the camera color is relevant to the typical photographer deciding between systems .


    When I see posts from experienced GETdpi contributors ...that I gave up on Nikon because I couldn t get the color right ...what exactly does that mean? Its a core premise in whats wrong with Nikon s offerings .

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