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Thread: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Hi folks,

    OK, this isn't about the Sony camera too much, but I thought it might be answered here best...

    I'm working through the new a900 a bit, and since I now have eliminated film from my workflow entirely, I have the need to specifically address B&W conversions along with learning a new camera.

    I'm a good PS user, and can do a good bit in there, especially when it comes to B&W manipulation. I know how to use the channel mixer, etc. and I am wondering if there is a good raw converter that enables good filtration like the channel mixer, or should I simply bring them inages into PS to do that manipulation?

    I have a demo of C1 here, and also Aperture, and the Nik Silver EFX as well. I really like the strength of the Nik add-on to PS, so I'll probably use that for some grain effects along the way, but it doesn't feel all too great for the color filtration, even though it will do it some (and somewhat indirectly).

    Neither C1 or Aperture seem to really have a strong B&W conversion toolset, unless I'm missing them.

    I'd love to hear from some of you about B&W workflow for digital source material.


    Thanks,


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    ...OK, I guess I'm not going to get any takers on this...

    Here's what I meant.

    My current plans are to:
    1. Shoot RAW
    2. Convert in a RAW converter without much manipulation
    3. Bring into PS and do Color Channels conversion
    4. Take into Silver EFEX for film look
    5. Do final editing in PS

    I know that Silver EFEX will do the conversion, but I'm not convinced that it is the best way to go. If so, I can skip Step 3 and do that as part of Step 4.

    What I was hoping is that there is a RAW converter out there that would allow me to ditch Step 3 in favor of much faster B&W visualization in the converter program, and then go from there to Silver EFEX and then into PS at the end for the final adjustments and printing.
    Last edited by mjm6; 30th August 2009 at 13:29.
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Okay, I'll help here with a few thoughts. I also use a A900 among other cameras. I have the latest versions of Aperture, C1-Pro, Flexcolor, Phocus, PSCS4, Bibble, Sony's Software and Lightroom V2.4 on my machine.

    I've taken to using Lightroom for just about everything, including B&W RAW conversions ... which I do a lot of.

    Under the "Greyscale" converter in LR, there are 8 "Channel" sliders which provide a great deal of tonal control.

    Any RAW file that you are working on in LR can also be directly opened in Photoshop, and when finished will be placed back into that Lightroom library with the original as an optional side-by-side or "stacked" version. So if you want to use Nik programs in PS, you have direct access to them. I use Nik Define 2 this way. I think Nik may now have a plug-ins for LR, or they are planned. This one program approach helps keeps everything in one place and in order.

    In addition, there are a number of Presets provided in LR to choose from, or you can add your own recipes to the LR Users Pre-Set menu for one button conversions ... or download some from the zillions that have been made by other LR users ... some are not so good, others are quite good.

    The A900 tonal response is a bit flatter in the mid-tones compared to some other cameras I use, so it takes some manipulation to get the B&W snap that I want. I think what makes the Sony so good at subtile color transitions right out of the camera tends to suppress the B&W mid-tone contrast response a bit. However, I'm not sure that isn't something that can be profiled for a LR Preset. Like you say, it's a relatively new camera and sensor, and requires some study and thought.

    Great camera BTW!

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    You can also try www.jfilabs.com for two kits - a B&W color filter profile set and a set of (15 IIRc) B&W film profiles for C1. You have no real control, but they are under $20 per package and you might find them interesting.
    Last edited by robmac; 30th August 2009 at 15:05.

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Jerry,

    That sounds like a good way to go, so I'll look into it a bit. I have LR on my PC here, but I recently switched to Mac, so I figured I was in need of a new RAW converter anyway. I've used LR since before Adobe purchased it, but I still can't quite get my head around the whole library of images concept... I tend to work on a small set of images and treat them as discreet. I'm not shooting thousands of images a week, so my basic archiving process from the days before Aperture and LR styled programs has worked well for me.

    What about the generally poor reviews that LR gets for raw conversion on the a900? I've seen the comparisons, and the output from LR is not as good as others (at least for color conversions). I suspect that for B&W there will be much less to differentiate the various RAW converters, however. Are you using something else for color conversions?

    Rob, That looks interesting. If I go the C1 route, I'll try them out and see what I thin of them.


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Senior Member Eoin's Avatar
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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    I use Aperture and 2 plugins to get me what I want in B&W. I use Viveza for local area enhancement and then finally but not always in this order Silver Efx Pro for the conversion and film grain if needed.

    While I agree fully that Aperture is weak in greyscale conversion, I do like the workflow and image management capability the whole package brings. It's conversion engine is better suited to colour Sony file than LR IMO, but that's just my preference. I prefer the Aperture skin tones.
    A7II, FE 35, 55 C/Y 18, 28, 85, 100, 28-85

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Quote Originally Posted by mjm6 View Post
    Jerry,

    That sounds like a good way to go, so I'll look into it a bit. I have LR on my PC here, but I recently switched to Mac, so I figured I was in need of a new RAW converter anyway. I've used LR since before Adobe purchased it, but I still can't quite get my head around the whole library of images concept... I tend to work on a small set of images and treat them as discreet. I'm not shooting thousands of images a week, so my basic archiving process from the days before Aperture and LR styled programs has worked well for me.

    What about the generally poor reviews that LR gets for raw conversion on the a900? I've seen the comparisons, and the output from LR is not as good as others (at least for color conversions). I suspect that for B&W there will be much less to differentiate the various RAW converters, however. Are you using something else for color conversions?

    Rob, That looks interesting. If I go the C1 route, I'll try them out and see what I thin of them.


    ---Michael
    If by "Jerry" you mean me ... "Marc" (Fotografz):

    I use Adobe Lightroom for almost everything whether for a few, or for many image ... color or B&W.

    Without going into detail and triggering yet another endless debate about LR, my personal observation is that comparisons are often done by those that seem to me less knowledgeable concerning the customization abilities of camera calibration profiles in LR ... which are considerable. Most people are using canned preferences in LR, but go to great lengths to set preferences in other RAW processors. It's just the nature of comparisons I think.

    I'm not saying LR is better than anything in terms of color works, it's just not as bad as being made out by others. Being able to get it equal or close to equal to other RAW software makes it by default better for me because of the workflow speed and new tools recently made available ... plus the fact that you can work directly in PS without leaving the LR software. But I will admit that those attributes are more desirable for those shooting a lot of images rather than a few. If working on just few images, it probably isn't worth the effort to learn LR's secrets.

    Between learning how to actually shoot the Sony, and calibrations in LR, I've been able to expand the use of the A900 far beyond what I thought possible when first working with the camera. I've been experimenting with the use of high ISO on the A900 (in bad lighting conditions, not good ones) and am progressing on that front. Enough progress, that I felt comfortable selling my D3 which is a camera that I never pushed to it's limits either. ISO 2000 is about the limit of what I need and I'm getting the Sony there for the stuff I shoot.

    As I had mentioned in some very early A900 posts here, we needed to push the envelope with this relatively new camera to see what it can actually do. I think it is proving to be even more of a camera than I initially suspected.

    Marc

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    I agree with Marc. I do all my b&w conversion in PS, but I believe the tool is basically the same as in LR. The conversion tool is very easy to use. After conversion, I use brightness/contrast or curves, depending on what kind of contrast I want. I mostly do sharpening before I do the final contrast adjustments, since sharpness influences on perceived contrast, particularly in b&w.

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    I convert from RAW into 16 bit Tiff's using C1 and open the files in PS for any further pp work then use a PS plug in by Power Retouch (their Black/white Studio plug-in) which gives me a lot of control including filters, simulated paper hardness, contrast and film pre-sets plus many others, if wanted. It also retains the original colours so it is very easy then to restore a little bit of the image to a spot colour if required.

    The nice thing about this is that it is quicker and easier than fiddling with channel mixers although that it exactly what it is doing but in a much more user friendly and intuitive way, if you are used to dark room work that is!

    It also works with 16 bit files whereas so many plug ins will only work with 8 bit files. It saves it back to PS where you can file it at whatever file format, size or bit depth you need. It suits me!
    Last edited by dhsimmonds; 31st August 2009 at 12:39.
    Cheers, Dave
    www.simmondsphotography.com

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Dave

    Nice find. Started playing with the full demo pack from Power Retouche (www.powerretouche.com) - almost too much control. So far like the B&W Studio and Black plug ins. The toning one - not so sure as yet. Will take some time to go thru them all. Nice no-time limit demo and a la carte pricing.

    While I'm not the OP - thanks for the info.

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Sorry Marc, must have gotten confused there...

    I downloaded the new version of LR and am pretty impressed with the strength of the B&W conversion, although it is not perfect, it does have considerable power, much better than that in other converters that I've tried.

    One aspect of this that I was hoping would be possible is to have the first real interpretation of the image be done in B&W rather than having to make a step or two in color first, and then into B&W. In my mind, that gets me much faster to the real expressive part of the process, and I want to be doing that and not wasting time on other steps along the way.

    That first step equates to the scanning step for b&w negatives. I scan the negative to make sure that I am capturing the information and begin the contrast and end points in there, but then I move to PS for the rest of the work. If I can get the RAW conversion to be similar, then I am going to have a similar workflow.

    I just downloaded the powerretouche to try, so I'll see about that tomorrow.

    In the end, I suspect that I'm going to have to test out a few different sequences of steps to find one that fits most naturally with my sensibility. However, since I know LR the best at the moment, I believe should start there, and develop some competency with it, and then see how I might improve on that approach.

    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Quote Originally Posted by mjm6 View Post
    Sorry Marc, must have gotten confused there...

    I downloaded the new version of LR and am pretty impressed with the strength of the B&W conversion, although it is not perfect, it does have considerable power, much better than that in other converters that I've tried.

    One aspect of this that I was hoping would be possible is to have the first real interpretation of the image be done in B&W rather than having to make a step or two in color first, and then into B&W. In my mind, that gets me much faster to the real expressive part of the process, and I want to be doing that and not wasting time on other steps along the way.

    That first step equates to the scanning step for b&w negatives. I scan the negative to make sure that I am capturing the information and begin the contrast and end points in there, but then I move to PS for the rest of the work. If I can get the RAW conversion to be similar, then I am going to have a similar workflow.

    I just downloaded the powerretouche to try, so I'll see about that tomorrow.

    In the end, I suspect that I'm going to have to test out a few different sequences of steps to find one that fits most naturally with my sensibility. However, since I know LR the best at the moment, I believe should start there, and develop some competency with it, and then see how I might improve on that approach.

    ---Michael
    What other steps?

    The way LR works is to build a Library ... so you load a memory card and LR offers a browser with thumbnails to cull out any unwanted images ... (by un-checking them) then only loads the keepers into the LR library.

    Once all the images are loaded, you select all the images and click on Greyscale, then at the bottom right click on Sync, and a dialog box will open for you to tell LR which settings to sync for all the selected images. Once done this batches all of them immediately. In your case all the selects will be in B&W ... then you can select individual shots ... or groups of similar shots ... and adjust the Grey Scale sliders to taste. If you select a group of shots, you work on one of them and then "Sync" the rest the same way by clicking on the sync button bottom right.

    -Marc

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    Senior Member mjm6's Avatar
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    Re: B&W conversion process for a900 files?

    Marc,

    Right. I meant that I don't want to have to convert in color and then go into PS to do the conversion if I don't have to, and the strength of the LR conversions looks like that will be possible. If I can also bring Silver EFEF into LR, then I think it will be a complete, powerful conversion without having any color steps along the way other than the 'shooting' decisions (color filtration, etc. that used to be done at the time of shooting, and without nearly as much precision as can be done now).


    ---Michael
    a7r, a7rII, FE 16-35, FE 24-70GM, FE 70-200, Loxia 21mm, 35mm, 50mm

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