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08-08-2016, 10:27 AM - 3 Likes   #1
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Printing from K-3

For those interested in printing their output ...

As some of you may have noticed I've been asking questions recently to try and quantify the dynamic range of the K-3 when printing. It's important to me to be able to print and get that 3D effect that a high quality paper achieves, across a range of different tonal ranges.

I'm happy with my k-3 bodies and lenses and don't want to upgrade to the K-1 unless I feel it will give me a visible improvement in tonal quality in print. So I've been exploring printing to different papers with different Dmax ratings. All prints have been made on a large format Epson printer using Ultrachrome inks.

It is difficult to get the Dmax figures from the manufacturers as they state there are too many factors that can affect the dynamic range of the print. In discussion with my printer and running some tests the paper's Dmax figures lie somewhere between 1.7 and 2.6.

The results have been interesting, well they have been to me. I used Hahnemuhle photorag and baryta, and Fotospeed pf gloss (270 gsm) and matt ultra papers, so a range that should show significant differences.

All prints have been made from the same source file, proofed and prepared with embedded profiles etc etc.

Eventually to the results ... obviously this is subjective, but I've tested with 3 people and the opinions are mostly consistent. Here are the findings ...

# Fotospeed's papers are naturally whiter and have greater *apparent* contrast.

# They initially appear more impactful. The two Hahnemule papers appear very similar even though they have quite different Dmax ratings (apparently) - glossiness apart.

# The tonal range, especially in the mid-range in the Hahnemule papers is subtly better - to my panel's taste. Even though at first this is not apparent when compared with the initial Fotospeed view.

# There is more depth to the Hahnemule papers, though along side the Fotospeed papers they initially look a little duller. When viewed separately, the subtler Hahnemule papers stand out in comparison over an extended view.

Conclusion: the vastly greater dynamic range of the K-3, especially when worked in Photoshop in 16-bit, prophoto, when compressed into the reduced range of papers, means that processing is key. The end results of the processing creates a print ready file that Photoshop has mapped to the narrow range required for printing. This means that any advantage in dynamic range of most modern cameras over their rivals is mostly irrelevant when printing. It comes down to proper processing and printing. Then the results can be decided by choice of paper.

I've tested four different papers with shots at 100 to 800 ISO at A2 and enlarged to A1 size. I have been very careful with the processing. I conclude that the K-1 is very unlikely to give me any printable advantage over a k-3, especially at low ISO and/or at native resolution. Obviously the K-1 will give a larger native print, but when the K-3 files are enlarged to A1 I would still surprised if there would be any noticeable differences when printed. The different paper's responses and characteristics will absorb any nuances between the two camera's output.

This has been a lengthy (and somewhat expensive) experiment. I'm sure different results from different source material would be possible, and obviously different tastes will view things differently. The screen experience will, of course, be quite different.

I expect some will disagree with these test results

08-08-2016, 10:35 AM   #2
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Not familiar with Fotospeed's papers, but beware any paper with optical brighteners -- they fade after just a few months. Problem we have (which is not really a problem) is that when we want to go bigger, we have to use the lab, and the choices (for papers, etc) are significantly narrowed. The prints we make ourselves are superior, but people often want big prints for their walls (and that's where the money is also, of course). But nobody would really know that unless they compared them side-by-side -- the lab prints still look good by any measure.
08-08-2016, 07:15 PM   #3
dms
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
... The end results of the processing creates a print ready file that Photoshop has mapped to the narrow range required for printing. This means that any advantage in dynamic range of most modern cameras over their rivals is mostly irrelevant when printing. It comes down to proper processing and printing. Then the results can be decided by choice of paper.

I've tested four different papers with shots at 100 to 800 ISO at A2 and enlarged to A1 size. I have been very careful with the processing. I conclude that the K-1 is very unlikely to give me any printable advantage over a k-3, especially at low ISO and/or at native resolution ...
I don't understand what the DR of the photo capture (e.g., K-1 vs K-3) has to do with printing.The wider DR allows you to capture a wide DR scene, or have a more or less contrasty version. What you then must do to print it, is fit the DR into the lower DR of the printed image and/or make a contrasty or flat print (and thus pick the right paper). These are necessary steps in all printing and in large part artistic choices. I doubt if any mainstream digital sensor has as narrow a DR as printer (reflected light) output.

Last edited by dms; 08-08-2016 at 09:19 PM.
08-09-2016, 12:21 AM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by dms Quote
I don't understand what the DR of the photo capture (e.g., K-1 vs K-3) has to do with printing.The wider DR allows you to capture a wide DR scene, or have a more or less contrasty version. What you then must do to print it, is fit the DR into the lower DR of the printed image and/or make a contrasty or flat print (and thus pick the right paper). These are necessary steps in all printing and in large part artistic choices. I doubt if any mainstream digital sensor has as narrow a DR as printer (reflected light) output.
My motivation to understand this a bit better is to work out what a K-1, with it's supposed 1 stop better DR, would in reality offer me over the K-3 when printing. Thus I took a range of shots of various DR situations and had them printed on various papers of different Dmax ratings, to see how they compared.

My thoughts were between the K-1 and the K-3 which both have 14-bit sensors. The K-1 is likely to be able to distinguish, in a few conditions, slight differences in tone due to it's 'deeper' 'photo sites', but these are then mapped to a much smaller DR on paper. As different papers themselves have different DR, I was attempting to judge how this mapping revealed itself when printed from different shots. I have so far convinced myself that the processing is the key and that the different DRs between the K-3 and the K-1 would be largely irrelevant in print.

Before printing I proofed with different rendering itents to see how this mapping might be revealed. (I understand rendering intents are colour space mapping, but the perception of colour and its relationship with tone is complicated and after all the mapping is to get the best image we want, so any changes in colour are likely to important when assessing the DR issues, I felt) Obviously the actual printing stage is different again, as the proofing is only a best guess.

Whether my, admittedly gut reaction to some extent as I don't have access to a K-1, is correct is open to correction. However, I can't see how slight differences in capture could really show any perceivable difference between the two cameras after all the modifications that take place to get to a print.

And yes I agree, the choice of paper is an artistic choice. This experiment showed up how different the papers performed which was not surprising, but also how similar they were too, when the obvious whiteness was ignored.

Maybe I've drawn these conclusions between the two camera's DR capabilities because of my preference to stick with my K-3 kit is entirely possible... Maybe someone will point out flaws in my reasoning or have both cameras to extend the test ...


Last edited by BarryE; 08-09-2016 at 12:56 AM.
08-09-2016, 12:59 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by BarryE Quote
My motivation to understand this a bit better is to work out what a K-1, with it's supposed 1 stop better DR, would in reality offer me over the K-3 when printing. Thus I took a range of shots of various DR situations and had them printed on various papers of different Dmax ratings, to see how they compared.

My thoughts were between the K-1 and the K-3 which both have 14-bit sensors. The K-1 is likely to be able to distinguish, in a few conditions, slight differences in tone due to it's 'deeper' 'photo sites', but these are then mapped to a much smaller DR on paper. As different papers themselves have different DR, I was attempting to judge how this mapping revealed itself when printed from different shots. I have so far convinced myself that the processing is the key and that the different DRs between the K-3 and the K-1 would be largely irrelevant in print.

Before printing I proofed with different rendering itents to see how this mapping might be revealed. (I understand rendering intents are colour space mapping, but the perception of colour and its relationship with tone is complicated and after all the mapping is to get the best image we want, so any changes in colour are likely to important when assessing the DR issues, I felt) Obviously the actual printing stage is different again, as the proofing is only a best guess.

Whether my, admittedly gut reaction to some extent as I don't have access to a K-1, is correct is open to correction. However, I can't see how slight differences in capture could really show any perceivable difference between the two cameras after all the modifications that take place to get to a print.

And yes I agree, the choice of paper is an artistic choice. This experiment showed up how different the papers performed which was not surprising, but also how similar they were too, when the obvious whiteness was ignored.

Maybe I've drawn these conclusions between the two camera's DR capabilities because of my preference to stick with my K-3 kit is entirely possible... Maybe someone will point out flaws in my reasoning or have both cameras to extend the test ...
In a very dark area of the photo you could get better detail from the K-1 vs. the K-3. Granted, you might have to raise the shadows to make that show up in a print, but still that is a difference you can see in a print.
08-09-2016, 02:22 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by leekil Quote
In a very dark area of the photo you could get better detail from the K-1 vs. the K-3. Granted, you might have to raise the shadows to make that show up in a print, but still that is a difference you can see in a print.
I'm sure you're right leekil. There will be occasions when extremes would give the K-1 the edge and also more work would be required in post when using the K-3, making the K-1 the 'better' camera.

There's now been over 350 views of this thread and very little to refute my thoughts that the difference between the two cameras, when printing, is likely to be very small. I'm not bothered by differences that can be seen on screen, as my measure is the final print. As I shoot in the 'slow lane', I can generally take time all the time I need to get the camera set up, therefore squeezing as much as I can out of my K-3s. I think the temptation to upgrade to the K-1 is slowly diminishing, which is good financially as well as for my neck & back as I'll have to carry less weight.

Now I need to stop reading the how-good-the-K-1-is threads
08-09-2016, 07:06 PM   #7
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Barry, my comment was not meant to suggest getting a K-1 would have a meaningful effect on the captured DR. On the contrary I believe the real benefit is in using a camera that feels right and one has gotten to know well over the longer term. For me the real reason to consider the K-1 is (which I am not currently) would be the ability to fully use wider angle FF lenses.
08-17-2016, 04:08 PM   #8
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Overall, Barry, I think you have done a good job of weighing most of the issues. Not sure that I totally agree on the ISO analysis. When I shot the Canon 5D, it was only clearly better at ISO 100-200, compared to a Pentax K20d. By ISO 800, you couldn't see a color depth difference. In fact, the K20D provided better high ISO detail because the Canon employed heavy handed smoothing.

What I disagree with - based on both experience and my understanding of conventional computer displays (as opposed to the highest-end professional wide gamut monitors) - is that FF and 645 really show their greatest potential when printed well on larger enlargements (A3+ or more). The depth is very apparent, and difficult to match with smaller formats. For those of us old enough to remember the 110 cameras, and the low quality they exhibited even on snapshots compared to 35mm, it doomed the format. Yet, smartphones are plenty good enough for small displays, not printing. With all the dithering and other compromises brought into conventional displays, you just can't see much regarding image depth. On a print, it is far more apparent.

08-18-2016, 04:26 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by ScooterMaxi Jim Quote
Overall, Barry, I think you have done a good job of weighing most of the issues. Not sure that I totally agree on the ISO analysis. When I shot the Canon 5D, it was only clearly better at ISO 100-200, compared to a Pentax K20d. By ISO 800, you couldn't see a color depth difference. In fact, the K20D provided better high ISO detail because the Canon employed heavy handed smoothing.

What I disagree with - based on both experience and my understanding of conventional computer displays (as opposed to the highest-end professional wide gamut monitors) - is that FF and 645 really show their greatest potential when printed well on larger enlargements (A3+ or more). The depth is very apparent, and difficult to match with smaller formats. For those of us old enough to remember the 110 cameras, and the low quality they exhibited even on snapshots compared to 35mm, it doomed the format. Yet, smartphones are plenty good enough for small displays, not printing. With all the dithering and other compromises brought into conventional displays, you just can't see much regarding image depth. On a print, it is far more apparent.
Hi Jim, thanks for taking the time to reply and add your experience.

As I continue, to probe around with this, I'm learning that every image and situation is actually different. Shocking, eh ? I've been running some more paper test prints and I think I'm seeing a few more nuances that I'd missed before. On high DR shots, there are small differences between the printed outputs of different papers with different DMAX ratings. The high DMAX paper does show more overall range (marginal to my eye, though I believe I'm getting more tuned to what to look for), what I have found though is the lower range quality paper actually has more mid-range variation. It's as though a high DMAX paper is designed to hold a wide range of tones, but at the expense of the nuances in the mid-range. The differences are small though, and I suspect I'm getting more and more picky.

So different papers for different situations is what is probably an obvious conclusion. However, would make my workflow even more difficult if I had to consider papers each time. So I guess, I will learn that some shots may just struggle with the paper I've chosen, but then will be better for others. This will be the same for the different camera types, which was what I was setting out to explore at the start of this ...

Your 645/FF reference I'm sure is valid. I am lucky enough to use a pro wide gamut monitor and it does help when processing and proofing, especially with some particular colours. The subjective, differences after all the potential processing from capture to printing, does, I'm sure, make the larger sensors better, but how much for the majority of shots. This "how much" and is its relevance to potential customers is, for me, the issue at stake here. I recently had a "solo" exhibition and I'm in the final throws of another starting on Saturday. As I look back at my earlier prints, I can see things I hadn't noticed before I embarked on this experiment. Whether customers would, that's anyone's guess, I suppose. Nobody has said that shot would be better with a medium format sensor, and some folk have come over all techno heavy !

I probably need to stop chasing the best potential quality and just get on with taking better shots. Probably true for many folk here
08-18-2016, 04:47 AM   #10
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The contrast available in the real world is about 20,000 -1
On a monitor maybe 500-1.
On a print , maybe 120:1
With the camera, the big question is how much of the 20,000:1 can it capture? This is going to relate specifically to shadow detail and highlight detail.
When printing, the goal is to make the most use of the very limited 120:1 image, to make it resemble as closely as possible the 20,000:1 of the original scene.

Your eyes adjust very quickly, so even though you are only seeing 7 EV, say 124:1, when you look at different aspects of a high contrast scene, your brain stitches the entire scene together so you think you are seeing much more contrast than you actually are. A sort of in brain HDR.

So while what you start with, with any camera will have to be portrayed at 120:1 meaning the output will be the same, capturing more of the scene allows for more shadow and highlight detail. That can be marginally important in sunrise, sunsets, and many other extremely high contrast situations. Although in many images people use the lower DR of the camera to black out or white out background stop create subject isolation. Low DR does lead to very attractive image creation options. Shooting in a studio with controlled light, it shouldn't be important at all. You set your light levels, exposure and contrast levels to suit what you are shooting with.

I Like shooting some scenes with a K-5 rather than K-3 or K20D. The difference in DR can be noticeable. Once the prints are on the wall, usually no one cares what you shot with and differences can be so minor only the photographer can tel the difference, because he knows where to look. He sees that one small areal of a print where 1 EV of extra dynamic range makes a difference. But for the average person, they probably won't even notice the difference.

I remember Tess once at an art show arguing with guy about IQ, with a guy who eventually bought one of my K20D images. She was doing her best to educate him on the benefits of the extra Dynamic range on the K-5 images. He finally just cut her off and said " I like this one." I swear sometimes photographers know way too much for their own good.

Customers are looking for the image they want to hang on their wall. They don't give a crap about resolution, dynamic range or anything else. They just want it to look good. The same guy also bought an image taken with a point and shoot, which happens to be our most popular image ever.

There's way to many folks who confuse higher DR, more resolution etc. with looking good.

It's possible they will contribute to looking good. It's more likely they won't make any difference at all. It's even possible to get trapped into thinking capturing more shadow detail or shadow makes for a better image. Appropriate use of DR focusses on the word "appropriate". There are no DR values that can be indiscriminately applied to every picture, to make the most out of every image.

A picture of a red flower on a completely black background that probably makes use of less than 5 EV, can still be a stunning and enjoyable image.The blackness creates subject isolation. Being able to see the stuff in the shadows would be a distraction.

So I have to agree completely with the OP. There are many types of photography where added DR in the DNG, does not lead to any difference at all in the final print.

Last edited by normhead; 08-18-2016 at 05:25 AM.
08-19-2016, 05:19 AM   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by normhead Quote
The contrast available in the real world is about 20,000 -1
On a monitor maybe 500-1.
On a print , maybe 120:1
With the camera, the big question is how much of the 20,000:1 can it capture? This is going to relate specifically to shadow detail and highlight detail.
When printing, the goal is to make the most use of the very limited 120:1 image, to make it resemble as closely as possible the 20,000:1 of the original scene.

Your eyes adjust very quickly, so even though you are only seeing 7 EV, say 124:1, when you look at different aspects of a high contrast scene, your brain stitches the entire scene together so you think you are seeing much more contrast than you actually are. A sort of in brain HDR.

So while what you start with, with any camera will have to be portrayed at 120:1 meaning the output will be the same, capturing more of the scene allows for more shadow and highlight detail. That can be marginally important in sunrise, sunsets, and many other extremely high contrast situations. Although in many images people use the lower DR of the camera to black out or white out background stop create subject isolation. Low DR does lead to very attractive image creation options. Shooting in a studio with controlled light, it shouldn't be important at all. You set your light levels, exposure and contrast levels to suit what you are shooting with.

I Like shooting some scenes with a K-5 rather than K-3 or K20D. The difference in DR can be noticeable. Once the prints are on the wall, usually no one cares what you shot with and differences can be so minor only the photographer can tel the difference, because he knows where to look. He sees that one small areal of a print where 1 EV of extra dynamic range makes a difference. But for the average person, they probably won't even notice the difference.

I remember Tess once at an art show arguing with guy about IQ, with a guy who eventually bought one of my K20D images. She was doing her best to educate him on the benefits of the extra Dynamic range on the K-5 images. He finally just cut her off and said " I like this one." I swear sometimes photographers know way too much for their own good.

Customers are looking for the image they want to hang on their wall. They don't give a crap about resolution, dynamic range or anything else. They just want it to look good. The same guy also bought an image taken with a point and shoot, which happens to be our most popular image ever.

There's way to many folks who confuse higher DR, more resolution etc. with looking good.

It's possible they will contribute to looking good. It's more likely they won't make any difference at all. It's even possible to get trapped into thinking capturing more shadow detail or shadow makes for a better image. Appropriate use of DR focusses on the word "appropriate". There are no DR values that can be indiscriminately applied to every picture, to make the most out of every image.

A picture of a red flower on a completely black background that probably makes use of less than 5 EV, can still be a stunning and enjoyable image.The blackness creates subject isolation. Being able to see the stuff in the shadows would be a distraction.

So I have to agree completely with the OP. There are many types of photography where added DR in the DNG, does not lead to any difference at all in the final print.


agree with everything here.

Many shots which I, and everybody else like, was taken with - MY MOBILE PHONE.

Actually, I printed some of them on my exibition - 2 mpix, or 3,2 mpix from mobile - pair to pair with Ricoh 12 mpix. both size 40-60 cm - and NOT ANY DIFFERENCE TO NAKED EYE.
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