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11-04-2009, 09:17 AM   #1
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Color Saturation

Is color saturation determined by Aperture or Shutter Speed? Is this typical for both film and digital or is this inherent to film only because of the chemistry of film?

Thanks in advance for your input.

11-04-2009, 09:49 AM   #2
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I'd say it's determined by the lens and the light in the scene that is passing through the lens.

Given the SAME scene and lens, I don't think you'd find a difference in color saturation when shooting at f/2.8, 1/500s and f/4, 1/250s (same ISO of course )
11-04-2009, 11:05 AM   #3
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I believe color saturation is determined by the quality of the image sensor used. This would make it analogous to the effect of saturation based on the type/quality of film used as well.

Between lenses, yes, there will be a difference in color saturation based on the the design, construction, and materials of the two different lenses. But taking the same lens and placing it on a different digital camera will give you different color saturation because of the sensors.
11-04-2009, 11:48 AM   #4
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This isn't about style or technique, moved to Beginners Q&A.
Please be careful where you post.

11-04-2009, 11:49 AM   #5
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Different brands of lens have different colours because of differences in the lens coatings, and possibly the lens elements themselves - glass vs plastic, etc. There are even variances between two lenses by the same manufacturer if they have different coatings. DA lenses are slightly different than M lenses from Pentax, for example.

Brand differences are generally more noticeable - Sigma lenses tend to be a bit more yellow than Pentax, for example.
11-04-2009, 02:30 PM   #6
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I've found that the closer you get to burning your highlights, the less color depth you are going to have.

If you're new, you might want to know that (in my opinion) digital exposures should be a tiny bit underexposed to preserve highlights and color depth. You may have already noticed that your Pentax tends to underexpose a bit....

Conversely, in the dark, you will want to overexpose a bit in order to get shadow detail and avoid noise.
11-04-2009, 03:36 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by FishrOfGrizz Quote
Is color saturation determined by Aperture or Shutter Speed? Is this typical for both film and digital or is this inherent to film only because of the chemistry of film?

With film, it was mostly the chemical makeup of the film itself. It's well known that some films (for example, Velvia) have more pronounced color saturation than other films. That's why photographers pick those films when, say, shooting fall foliage in New England.

Now other factors might matter, too: lens coatings, and perhaps to some extent aperture and shutter speed. But I've never noticed these factors to have anything like the effect of choosing a different film. To be honest, when I shot film, I never had as many lenses as I have today, so I was less aware of their differences than I am now. But when I switch from a Pentax to a Sigma lens on one of my Pentax DSLRs, I am simply and flatly unaware of this making a significant difference to the SATURATION of colors of the resulting image. I'm not saying the lens does not matter, just that the difference is pretty slight. Note that color saturation is NOT the same thing as color. Yellower reds aren't necessarily less saturated, they're just more yellow.

Of course I would not doubt for a minute that the sensor matters. It's possible that color saturation on my K20D is better than on my *ist DS or even my K10D - although again, it's not dramatic and even after looking at thousands and thousands of photos taken with these 3 cameras in the last many years, I'm hard pressed to guess which camera took the image if I don't know already.

It's possible that changes in either aperture and/or shutter speed could generate more or less saturated images. I've never noticed it, but I just don't know. Be an interesting experiment, perhaps. I have a feeling that there's something about the quality and amount of light that matters to saturation too, or perhaps I should speak instead of the exposure mattering. A very underexposed image may have weak colors that cannot be fixed in post-processing. An overexposed image has a similar problem, just on the bright side - colors that are too washed out to be restored in post. Now that I think about it, I'm pretty sure that, if you're shooting a colorful scene and saturation really matters to you, the single most important thing you can do while shooting is expose carefully and properly.

But aside from nailing the exposure, with digital, it seems pretty clear that the biggest factor in how saturated your images are, is the post-processing. If you don't save your raw files, then the saturation setting you've got inside the camera is what matters most. If you save raw files and process on your computer, it's the setting you use in Lightroom or ACDSee or whatever you use for processing.

An interesting question though.

Will
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