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Flat , Dull D100 Images

Valkeerie


14 posts

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Valkeerie Registered since 30th Aug 2002
Fri 30-Aug-02 11:50 AM

There has been a lot of discussion on the fact that D100 images aren't exactly "out of the box"; they require post-processing to look good. As someone moving up from a consumer camera (Olympus 3040) this has caused me considerable confusion and expense. I hope this post will incur comment to help me clarify what is going on, and perhaps help others not familiar with Nikon's thinking.

I returned my first D100 to Nikon. The pictures looked so poor I spent two days taking identical shots with the Olympus 3040 and the D100 both on default and auto and found the D100 suffered in the following repsects:
- colour balance and accuracy
- tone
- saturation
- dynamic range (the 3040 handled high contrast subjects *much* better). The D100 images were so flat, dull and uninspiring they could make a bright August day seem like January in Glasgow.

I sent a CD of the comparison images to Nikon UK, and the SR agreed the D100 images were poor by comparison.

The camera was replaced under warranty. I found Nikon UK efficient and helpful. It is not clear to me that the replacement camera is different. It may be. I still find the images are flat and dull.

This is not an exposure issue. Increasing the exposure only worsens the camera's behaviour in high contrast situations. Increasing tone or sharpness in the camera produces harsh images in situations where the 3040 produces lively, vibrant images. I have not found an in-camera adjustment that results in images that look anything like the 3040 images (which in turn are closest to RL). My benchmark scenes are around my house and garden, and I only have to look away from my monitor and look at the street to compare image to reality. The 3040 wins.

So now, my conclusions, based on reading this site and others.

The dullness and flatness of the D100 images is a deliberate choice by Nikon to preserve the maximum visual information, avoiding loss of detail in highlights.

No in-camera adjustment will produce an image with the out-of-the-box vibrancy of a good consumer camera like the 3040. I have taken 1000's of images with 3040 under every condition, with lots of "found light" pictures at night in the streets, and it is f****** marvellous.

Simplistic post-processing of D100 JPEGS doesn't give good results. Playing with brightness, contrast or intensity to improve them makes them worse (e.g. genuine blacks are bloomed by brightening). No simple combination of these produces a picture as good as the out-of-the-box 3040 picture.

Playing with levels (Photoshop) or tone curves (Corel Photopaint - my favourite) *does* start to fix things. It is as if the dynamic range of colour values has been compressed (like Dolby) and downshifted into the dark end. Applying an appropriate tone curve starts to bring back all the highlights and life into the image.

The most frustrating thing is that the in-camera image viewed on the internal display looks fine - the dynamic range is there. It is the downloaded JPEG that looks like it has gone through a sludge filter. Why is this?????????

I know some of the dynamic range is lost in the 12-8 bit JPEG conversion, but JPEGS can be lovely, and Olympus doesn't have a problem with JPEG conversion.

I know many people are using NEF and ducking the issue. I don't need counselling on image processing (I work in this area). What I believe (and people like me need to know this) is that the D100 cannot produce out of the box images like a good consumer camera. It isn't a step up. It is a step sideways, offering higher image quality on the condition that each image is significantly post-processed. I am still adjusting to this understanding, as it is not what I had anticipated when I bought the camera.

I still don't understand what I don't understand; that is, why the 3040 works so well under conditions where the D100 doesn't.

Please treat this post kindly - I have spent a lot of hard-earned money, I am not stupid, and I really want to make the D100 work for me, as I have worked my Olympus into the ground and needed something better.

Colin

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