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Subject: "Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!" Previous topic | Next topic
MasterDabber Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Dec 2005Wed 26-Dec-12 02:18 PM
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"Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"


Camberley, GB
          

First day out with my D7000 and no doubt I'll be asking a lot of dumb questions in the future.
Fairly happy with results. A walk around some gardens. Quite a bright, featureless sky. However, a few images over-exposed.

Matrix metering, Manual, raw.
I need to get used to the metering of the D7000 and I'm not worried about being to be able to make the right exposure judgements after a bit of experience working with it.

However, my question is, would Active D-Lighting help, make no effect or be detrimental...

raw >> Bridge >>Adobe DNG Converter >> possibly Oloneo HDREngine or direct to CS3/ACR

I've done a bit of searching and I'm still left unsure. As I've indicated above... I don't shoot jpeg and I don't use Nikon SW.

Thanks in advance for any guidance.
Derek

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elec164 Silver Member Nikonian since 15th Jan 2009Wed 26-Dec-12 02:40 PM
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#1. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 0
Wed 26-Dec-12 02:42 PM by elec164

US
          

In general, if you are not using Nikon software to convert the NEF's (or shooting in camera JPEG only) then don't use Active D-lighting.

Active D-lighting (especially when set high) alters the exposure and uses a custom tone curve when converting the NEF data. Third Party editors cannot access that proprietary information and will not process the data correctly.

Pete

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MasterDabber Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Dec 2005Wed 26-Dec-12 07:54 PM
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#2. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 1


Camberley, GB
          

Thanks Pete. I'll leave it alone in that case.
Derek

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rgcoleman9 Registered since 01st Apr 2010Thu 27-Dec-12 11:51 PM
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#3. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 2


Kingston Springs, US
          

Although Nikon's software is glitchy, it is worth it to be able to utilize features like Active D-Lighting when the situation warrants. It has saved some shots that would have been impossible without HDR and a ton of post-processing.

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km6xz Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge in various areas, including Portraits and Urban Photography Nikonian since 22nd Jan 2009Fri 28-Dec-12 03:08 AM
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#4. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 2
Tue 01-Jan-13 07:16 PM by km6xz

St Petersburg, RU
          

Even when using RAW, the high tones are protected by lowering the explosure but the real benefit to using it comes when using Nikon software which selecting the level of shadow protection as well as high tone protection.
You will probably find fewer blown highlights even is using RAW and a 3rd party software package but once you play with the full control you have in post with Nikon software you might consider adding an additional step of rendering really wide DR scenes in Capture NX2 before editing in your favorite 3rd party software. For narrower DR scenes, I would turn it off however.
Stan
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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Fri 28-Dec-12 11:11 AM
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#5. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 1


Atlanta, US
          

ACtive D-Lighting applies and exposure adjustment as follows:
Low 0.0
Medium -0.3
High -0.7
Extra High -1.0

The exposure adjustment is baked in and cannot be removed in Post.

The tone curve balances the exposure to correctly present the image for JPEG files or if you are using Nikon software (or other programs that use camera settings).

The tone curve can be adjusted in post in Capture NX2. If ADL is turned off, an adjustment is not possible.

The ADL curve is relatively complex - I am very experienced with editing and found it was not easily replicated in post processing with 15 minutes of effort. In simple clean scenes you could probably replicate the effect in post, but when you have a multi-toned background or busy composition it can be very difficult.

There is a very slight slowdown in writing NEF's to the memory card with ADL turned on. I could not observe a difference.

Since ADL does affect the embedded JPEG, it will change the histogram in your LCD. Your picture control settings also impact the LCD image and histogram. This can mean more or less clipping depending on your settings, and lead you to different exposure adjustments.

If you shoot NEF's with ADL on Low, there is minimal downside and you retain the ability to adjust ADL later. It's a factor in high contrast situations with complex scenes or backgrounds as you might need the flexibility and you get a histogram that is closer to what you might render in post.

Eric Bowles
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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Tue 01-Jan-13 12:58 PM
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#6. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 0


Novi, US
          

I really like Active D-Lighting and read an excellent article on it a while back (I'm sorry I don't remember where I read it). It does make some changes to both the exposure and then the in-camera processing.

What sold me on the feature is that I went to a museum when I first got my camera, put it on a tripod and tried all kinds of settings. I kept a notebook with me and recorded all of the settings changes.

I took pictures of an area which was normally lit, but which had a section that was in the shadows. I took the same picture at the same settings with the only variable is I changed the Active D-Lighting setting (started with off, then tried each of the other settings). When off, the shadow area was totally dark. When Active D-Lighting was set to normal, the shadow area was lightened up just right, as if it were shot at a different exposure than the rest of the picture. I really thought it was terrific to have the camera do this as opposed to having to do it in post.

Since then, I have always had Active D-Lighting set. I suggest you run your own tests to see the results.

Mike

  

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MasterDabber Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Dec 2005Tue 01-Jan-13 03:34 PM
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#7. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 6


Camberley, GB
          

Thanks for all the further feedbacks. It's much appreciated.

So far I've left AD-L off but I think I'll take Mike's advice and try some controlled experimental shots at different settings. For PP I'm planning to stay with CS3 for the moment and any test I do will be done using that. For the future I guess I may consider NX2.
Derek

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briantilley Moderator Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003Tue 01-Jan-13 04:58 PM
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#8. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 7


Paignton, GB
          

>So far I've left AD-L off but I think I'll take Mike's advice
>and try some controlled experimental shots at different
>settings.

It's always good to try things out, but bear in mind that Mike is (presumably) shooting either in JPG or in NEF and using Nikon software. Since you are shooting NEF and using CS3, you won't see the same improvement that he did - all you will get is the reduction in exposure to an extent dependent on the ADL setting.

Brian
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MasterDabber Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Dec 2005Tue 01-Jan-13 05:54 PM
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#9. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 8


Camberley, GB
          

Thanks Brian. Yes, I've learnt that using non-Nikon sw I'm not going to get the full benefit. How much benefit I might get still seems pretty undefined. So, a few tests in non pressured environment should let me get my own feel for any effect.
Derek

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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Tue 01-Jan-13 06:08 PM
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#10. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 8


Novi, US
          

Brian,

My Actve D-Lighting test was with Jpeg and iPhoto as I wanted to see out of the camera results.

I use Aperture and Photoshop normally.

Mike

  

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briantilley Moderator Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003Tue 01-Jan-13 06:33 PM
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#11. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 9


Paignton, GB
          

As far as I can tell, if one uses ADL without processing in Nikon software the net result is detrimental. You don't get any benefit, because you're left with the reduction in exposure (as Eric detailed above) without a compensating adjustment in the tone curve.

>So, a few tests in non pressured environment should let me
>get my own feel for any effect.

That sounds like a good plan

Brian
Welsh Nikonian

  

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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Tue 01-Jan-13 09:49 PM
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#12. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 10


Novi, US
          

Well, I dug out my test from early 2011. I shot RAW + JPEG, but I took the JPEGs right out of the camera and posted them on my smugmug site here: http://www.smugmug.com/gallery/27356107_7m9bqC

I do want to say that upon reflection, this wasn't the ideally lit situation in which to test in that the shadows aren't as pronounced as I remembered them; however, the results are pretty clear. The shadow sections of the picture brighten up when Active D-Lighting is on. Personally, I like it; however, as with all things photographic, it is a matter of personal preference. However, to categorically say it doesn't have any impact without Nikon software, or that it is detrimental without Nikon software, could be misleading.

The pictures are captioned with the Active D-Lighting setting. While I shot this picture at all of the Active D-Lighting settings, I only uploaded off, High, and auto settings.

I should also add I shot these with the camera set at Aperture Priority (they all came out to f4 at 1/60), ISO 6400, SB-800 flash (which did fire). The camera was on a tripod and from shot to shot, I only changed the ADL setting. EXIF data confirms that all of the other exposure settings remained the same. This was an indoor, museum setting so ambient lighting did not change during my shoot.

Mike

  

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briantilley Moderator Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003Wed 02-Jan-13 08:46 AM
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#13. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 12
Wed 02-Jan-13 08:49 AM by briantilley

Paignton, GB
          


Your gallery images do show the difference in the JPEG images from using ADL at various settings - thank you

What I was getting at in my previous post is something that seems to be much misunderstood in some quarters.

So to clarify again - applying ADL in-camera has two distinct effects. Firstly, the camera will reduce the metered exposure by a certain amount (as listed by Eric) depending on the ADL setting - thus making the whole image darker. Then the camera calculates a suitable "tone curve" to lighten certain areas and bring back some tones without blowing out the highlights, and stores this setting alongside the image data in the NEF file.

As a result, the exposure reduction will be seen in the NEF image whichever RAW converter you use. However, the tone curve adjustment will only be recognised by Nikon software - Capture NX2 and View NX2. So, it is a fact that - if you shoot in NEF and use Aperture, Lightroom, PSE or similar - you will only see the effect of the exposure reduction and the whole image will be darker than you or the camera meter intended. That's what I meant by saying the effect is "detrimental" in those circumstances. It may be that an individual image may benefit from underexposure, but that can be achieved by using exposure compensation under the control of the photographer - it doesn't require ADL.

For completeness... if you are shooting JPEG's, then both the exposure reduction and the tone curve adjustment are "baked in" to the JPEG image file as saved by the camera, and the (beneficial) effect will be seen however you view the images.

Brian
Welsh Nikonian

  

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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Wed 02-Jan-13 10:49 AM
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#14. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 13


Novi, US
          

Brian,

What you are saying is similar to what I have read. This evening I will take the corresponding RAW files, convert them to JPG using Aperture, and then upload those.

I can say that the EXIF data showed that all three pictures were taken using the same f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO, so that would seem to run counter to your contention that the camera reduced the exposure.

Mike

  

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briantilley Moderator Deep knowledge of bodies and lens; high level photography skills Nikonian since 26th Jan 2003Wed 02-Jan-13 11:17 AM
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#15. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 14
Wed 02-Jan-13 11:20 AM by briantilley

Paignton, GB
          


>I can say that the EXIF data showed that all three pictures
>were taken using the same f-stop, shutter speed, and ISO, so
>that would seem to run counter to your contention that the
>camera reduced the exposure.

I should have been more clear - using ADL, the camera MAY (rather than WILL) reduce the exposure. Whether it does or does not depends on the distribution of light and shade in the image as metered. If the scene is mostly mid-tones, with no significant areas that are in danger of being "blown out", ADL would not need to apply any exposure reduction.

Since your test shots all had the same exposure, I would expect to see no visible difference between the three NEF's when opened in Aperture.

ADL is a pretty "intelligent" feature - it can be a challenge to understand how it works

Brian
Welsh Nikonian

  

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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 12:08 PM
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#16. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 14


Atlanta, US
          

Mike

ADL Off and ADL High should not produce the same exposure. There should be a 0.7 stop difference but there could be some other factor that changes exposure in an image. Auto is a bit of a black box that lets the camera decide on the exposure difference if any. I would never recommend Auto.

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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Wed 02-Jan-13 12:28 PM
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#17. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 16


Novi, US
          

Eric,

They are the same exposure. Maybe something is done in post?

Mike

  

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MasterDabber Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Dec 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 01:08 PM
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#18. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 17


Camberley, GB
          

Another big thanks for all the replies although it does seem there are many views on this subject. As I said earlier I'll do my own tests and see how they work out.

However, a supplementary question. I don't have Capture NX2 (and don't really plan to spend money on it at the moment) but I do have, of course, View NX2 which I hadn't bothered to install until this morning.
I've had a quick look but haven't formed any view about its capabilities at the moment.

Given that currently I'm using
Bridge >> Adobe DNG Converter >> CS3/ACR

Would you think that View NX2 could/should be used instead of ACR?
Derek

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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 01:48 PM
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#19. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 17


Atlanta, US
          

Mike - you can't change ADL in post even if you wanted to change it.

In my testing I actually could see the exposure in the camera change with the setting changes. I was using a tripod and not making any changes in camera position. I probably had 50 separate frames in my test.

Perhaps light levels changed slightly or the AF sensor position changed causing a change in metering. If the exposure is the same, something changed in the test conditions. Using flash could have had some impact on the setting.

Try another test with each of the settings and no flash.

Eric Bowles
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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Wed 02-Jan-13 01:52 PM
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#20. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 19


Novi, US
          

Eric,

By post, I meant the in-camera Nikon translation from the RAW capture to the JPG. I think Brian suggested that Nikon applied a tone curve.

Mike

  

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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 01:56 PM
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#21. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 18


Atlanta, US
          

Derek

Given your workflow, I woudl not shift to View NX2 under normal circumstances. But if you have an untouched NEF file for a particularly problematic image, View might allow you to use some alternative settings like ADL or auto WB. View also provides immediate ability to process images from new cameras that may not be supported by Adobe yet. Most of the adjustments can be made in alternative software of your choice.

The other opportunity is if you have a need to shoot JPEGs or simply want the in-camera image to be more accurate for purposes of the histogram or LCD, you can better tweak and use the Picture Control by experimenting in View.

I don't see any real need to shift away from Adobe DNG Converter if its working for you.

Eric Bowles
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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 02:04 PM
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#22. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 20


Atlanta, US
          

Mike

I tried playing around with an edit in post - and turning it off. The exposure was unchanged but the shape of the histogram changed with changes in the setting. Some areas of an image seemed to have no change, while other areas had fairly dramatic changes.

The tone curve being applied by Nikon is relatively complex - I tried to create a similar result and it would not work very well. You can apply a curve from a High setting to an image taken with Low. The effect is to brighten dark areas while maintaining the highlights and lighter areas.


Eric Bowles
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MasterDabber Silver Member Nikonian since 10th Dec 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 03:10 PM
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#23. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 21


Camberley, GB
          

Eric. Thanks.. I'll go with your advice but perhaps, in parallel, do yet more experimentation with View NX2 just to make some comparisons.
I've been working in the CS3/ACR for a number of years so it feels more comfortable to stick with what I know. However, if I found significant benefits by changing I would. Of course, I'm only using the DNG Converter because my ACR can't support the D7000.

So much to learn, so little time and I haven't even started looking at Movie mode.

Thanks again.
Derek

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mdallie Silver Member Nikonian since 03rd Jan 2011Wed 02-Jan-13 03:17 PM
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#24. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 22


Novi, US
          

Good work, Eric!

If I understand you correctly, then, Nikon does apply some type of curve but it is pretty sophisticated and not easily duplicated in post processing?

Mike

  

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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005Wed 02-Jan-13 04:09 PM
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#25. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 24


Atlanta, US
          

Mike - That's correct. The curve being applied did a very good job of making dark areas a little brighter - and that part can be replicated pretty easily. What it did well was managing the rest of the scene so that bright areas remained unchanged. I had some blue sky filtering through branches in my test images and it was very hard to recover the dark shadows while maintaining the correct exposure for the sky when there was so much detail. A simply blue sky would have been easy, but the software did a good job with applying a curve or curves to a complex scene - and that was very hard to recreate.

Eric Bowles
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Davidpeter1 Silver Member Nikonian since 07th Mar 2004Wed 02-Jan-13 07:08 PM
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#26. "RE: Active D-Lighting... again, sorry!"
In response to Reply # 13


Cardiff, GB
          

thanks for such a good clear explanation

David.

Cardiff,Britain.

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