Sunday, March 23, 2014

Camera Body Emulation?

Lumix DMC-LX5, DxO Optics Pro 9, No Emulation

Lumix DMC-LX5, DxO Optics Pro 9, Leica M Emulation
Quite some time ago, I did several articles on Film Emulation, starting off a bit sceptical, but then warming to the idea, having found and purchased the Gold Standard, that is DxO Lab's Optics Pro with Film Pack software. After using and enjoying this software, which is really a highly specialized Raw Data Converter which digitally optimizes whatever camera / lens combination you're using, and additionally adds film characteristics of many different brands and types, I found that it also has the ability to emulate several different camera bodys' characteristics, this time without consideration for the lens. In other words, it automatically tweaks a photo to correct optical and colour imperfections according to the camera / lens which you are using, but then offers the option to add the body / sensor characteristics from a choice of many different cameras. The first pair, above, shows the results from a DMC-LX5 already corrected from the DxO database for that camera, and then optionally what it looks like with added Leica M body emulation. Notice how there is a definite improvement in the background clarity and separation between subjects, as well as a deeper colour saturation.

I'll show another pair, this time which will show the full process, with the first being the out-of-camera Jpeg, and the second being made from the Raw Data file, corrected by DxO Optics Pro 9 with an added camera body emulation:

Lumix DMC-LX5 Straight From Camera Jpeg
Lumix DMC-LX5, Raw Data Developed via DxO Optics Pro 9, Added Canon EOS 5D Emulation

I really should get set up so that these comparisons can be made with a "mouse-over" instead of showing two separate images, in which case you wouldn't need to scroll up and down. However, the difference here is noticeable enough, and you can eyeball the foregrounds on your screen without scrolling. Note how, with reference to the camera Jpeg, the basic DxO treatment transforms the Raw Data picture's foreground from "good" to "superb", vastly increasing the textures in the muddy road, separating the space between the three people extremely well, and really making the foreground "lay flat" to give a greater sense that you are invited into the shot. And all this from the small-sensor LX5 Pocket Camera! Then when you add the EOS-5D camera emulation, you get that camera's characteristic brightness, and super realistic colour (scroll up and down between this, and the Leica M emulation of the first pair - the Leica colours are typically nice, but highly saturated.)

I notice that the camera Jpeg (no external processing) does offer a lot more shadow detail in the snow, but that comes especially at the expense of everything else. The DxO / EOS 5D rendering gives a lot more detail in the background trees, with a lot more "roundness" (something else I look for), more light and shadow detail on the building in the background, and especially notice how the two cars look less "squished" and are sitting more level, not to mention are exhibiting a lot more selective brightness. This would all be in accord with the basic lens correction which the DxO optics pro software is famous for.

My personal method of criticizing photos doesn't involve any pixel peeping. My experience as a painter, and the art lessons I've had, causes me to look at a photo more like a painting, which is why I look for "roundness", "foregrounds that lay flat and invite you in", "separation between subjects" and "great light and texture". You'll hear me speak of such things time and time again.

I will finish up with several more examples of this same shot, using DxO Lab's Camera Body Emulation:

Canon EOS 6D Emulation - similar to 5D but a bit less bright

Nikon D4 - Best of the bunch, with shadows in snow restored, best separation between subjects, clearest detail throughout, most natural colour and preservation of brightness
Sony A-900 - looks a lot like the Nikon D4, although with less shadow detail in the snow

Sony NEX - not bad, but there's a noticeable overall reduction in detail and more muted colour, with an overall "cool" caste.
Leica M9 - deep contrasts, rich film-like colour saturation bordering on "unnatural", slightly less highlight detail than the Nikon D4, but best shadow detail of all

I think what amazes me most of all is how well this works, that is, how well I can actually spot the differences. I really don't know how "true" each camera rendering is, because I'll never own a D4 or an M9, but WOW - hats of to the DxO Software researchers which allowed me to emulate all of these fine cameras from one very small pocket camera which is not taken very seriously among the elitists. In a way, the DxO Optics Pro 9 has become my new camera.

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