We've come a long way baby

May 18, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

When I took this photo of a backyard Robin with a D7000 and 600VR combination I was struck by just how much improvement has occurred over the last ten years for the wildlife photographer.  While the 600VR is an expensive super telephoto, the D7000 sells for about $1000 and is not considered to be a high-end camera.  This photo may have been possible ten years ago, but it would have required the best equipment including a heavy tripod, perfect technique, a high quality slow film, drum roll scanning and detailed work for hours in photoshop.  Now it is a quick handheld snap with a consumer camera and 5 minutes of post processing.

Robin_1

1.  Camera metering and dynamic range

At first blush this image appears to be over exposed and washed out.  However, I am finding the automatic metering on the D7000 to be quite amazing.  It tends to expose to the right to minimize noise in shadows, but the dynamic range of the files is so large that it is unusual to be unable to recover highlight details, especially with the current post processing software tools.

The following two adjustments were made in Lightroom 4.1:

  • Exposure was reduced by just less than a stop.
  • Highlights were recovered by with a quick slide to the left.

 

 

 

 

Robin LR Adj

Voila
Robin_2
 


2.  Image quality

I have already discussed the improvement in dynamic range on modern sensors.  The improvements in noise reduction are also impressive.  This image was taken at ISO 560.  Typically noise is most noticeable in darker, out of focus greens, where the red and blue colour noise show up.  As a matter of interest, I rooted around in my Lightroom catalog to find a comparison to earlier technology.

Image 100% crop Camera ISO Resolution Price
Noise D100 D100 400 6MP $3000
Noise D2X D2X 400 12MP $6000
Noise D7000 D7000 560 16MP $1000

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Image detail and sharpness

The image of the robin was taken handheld, which would have been unthinkable ten years ago.  The vibration reduction, deconvoluted sharpening algorithms and clean noise sensors at higher ISO have made a huge leap forward, as evidenced by this 100% crop of the robin.

 

4.  Distraction removal

In the past I would have automatically discarded this image as robins are not that remarkable and it would have been a pain to deal with the distracting out of focus foreground branch.  However, two minutes in photoshop CS6 using the content aware patch tool and a small amount of cloning eliminated the distracting branches.

 

Now, if we could get a smaller, lighter 600/4 VR ...


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