Saturday, February 9, 2013

Chocolate Ice Study

EOS 600D, EF 40 Lens, RAW File Processed with Photivo

Same, JPEG Straight from Camera

Panorama by "Hugin", based on JPEGS Straight from Camera, One Click Auto-Fix in GIMP

Yesterday I had a chance to do a study of a phenomena that we see here every winter, that being the "Chocolate Ice" that forms in a little inlet from the Bay of Fundy called Chester Basin. Being right at the exit ramp onto the TCH from Sackville's second junction with the highway, it's something we see almost daily, and something I've always wanted to photograph.  Fortunately, there is a very well maintained service road that goes to the prime viewing spot, which I took advantage of. I made several shots with two cameras - my newly acquired "trade-down" EOS 600D, and my FED 5 Russian Rangefinder. Also, with the low late afternoon sun burning through a pre-storm light overcast, the lighting couldn't have been more perfect.

It was an excellent opportunity to test my trade-down digital camera, just to see if my peculiar observations about the EOS 7D performance were in fact warranted. You will recall that I found the 7D to be a serious under-performer when it came to it's JPG output, although I was always able with a lot of work to get the RAW files converted to spectacular looking photos. I am still at a loss to explain why this particular camera produced such dull, fuzzy looking straight from the camera photos. Part of the problem I found to be related to the Focus Micro-adjustment feature, and after I had dealt with that, things did improve a lot - my pictures came out much less fuzzy, but I didn't see any improvement in the exposures, which, in spite of healthy "exposed to the right" histograms as seen on the camera's LCD, still remained dark and dull looking. So, I'm glad to report, the consumer grade "Canon Rebel" 600D is a totally different creature when it comes to the JPEG picture quality, in spite of sharing the same Image Sensor with it's big brother, the professional model 7D, which I gave up on trade.

As you can see from the above pictures, the JPEG output is not shabby at all. Keep in mind that the first sample is heavily worked up from the RAW file with several light and gamma adjustments, as well as dynamic range compression and local contrast enhancements, using the open-source Photivo application, so it looks spectacular, as it should. The second sample is the JPEG file, straight from the camera, with no alterations whatsoever. This is a very usable image, naturally not as good as the processed version, but certainly far better than the output from the 7D - too bad I didn't still have that camera so I could make a definitive comparison. The panorama was made from two JPEGs, stitched with the "Hugin" program, and then cropped and brightened in GIMP.

With the 600D, I get the return of Canon's "A-DEP" mode - a feature that I found very useful when shooting landscapes with my previous "Rebel" series cameras, but for whatever reason, this mode was not equipped on the EOS 7D. I used it exclusively while shooting this study, and so glad to have it back. The A-DEP mode simply ensures that the maximum depth-of-field is achieved by using all of the camera's auto-focus points. It should in theory give the deepest DOF possible with any given lens, and also make the best use of the Evaluative Auto Exposure stetting. In earlier times, this was done with manual lens settings to achieve the lens' hyper-focal distance; A-DEP simply provides an Auto Focus way of doing the same thing, which can't otherwise be accomplished on new electronically controlled lenses that do not have an aperture ring adjacent to the distance scale. So, it's a mystery to me why Canon chose to leave this feature out of their professional grade cameras. Unless I'm actually using an old manual focus lens on the camera with hyper-focal distance easily achieved by setting the Infinity mark directly over the aperture setting being used, I don't understand how this can be done without A-DEP when using automatic lenses. Anyway, I am very glad to have the A-DEP setting back - you don't know how much you miss something after it's gone, and then you get it back again. It's so nice to not have to be trying to unlock the EOS 7D mysteries any more!

Now it will be even more interesting to get the film developed from my  FED-5, just to compare the similar pictures made on film, using a classic rangefinder camera. Can't wait to use up that roll of film and share the results with you!

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