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Sharpening files for cameras with smaller photo sites


Atlanta, US
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ericbowles Moderator Awarded for his in-depth knowledge and high level skills in various areas, especially Landscape and Wildlife Photoghraphy Writer Ribbon awarded for for his article contributions to the community Donor Ribbon awarded for his very generous support to the Fundraising Campaign 2015 Nikonian since 25th Nov 2005
Sun 18-Mar-12 02:58 PM

I'm interested in a discussion of sharpening especially considering the larger files and potential for cropping.

We've got an increasing trend to cameras with smaller photo sites packing more pixels into an image. The D800 is the high end, but photo sites are about the same as the D7000. The smallest photo sites are on the Nikon 1 cameras. With all these cameras we are downsizing to a standard size print. We've even got some situations for highly cropped images where the Nikon 1 may put the most pixels on the subject. So with smaller pixels, what's the impact on sharpening.

Capture Sharpening
There are potentially two iterations of sharpening. The first - capture sharpening - is intended to sharpen the image to the point where it looks good but has not been enhanced for final presentation. In any event capture sharpening needs to be used lightly - or some don't use it at all.

Creative Sharpening
Unsharp Mask
My initial thought is that settings for Intensity will be largely unchanged. Since intensity refers to the strength of the effect, I don't see a difference based on camera sensor.
I do see a potential change in the Radius. Since radius is related to pixels, and pixels are smaller, radius might go a little higher for the same impact with high megapixel cameras. I've seen a bit of this with the D7000.
Threshold will likely be unchanged since it refers to the amount of contrast required before sharpening is applied.

High Pass
High Pass sharpening is heavily based on pixel size since it creates sharpening at high contrast edges. My take is just as radius changes, you will increase the radius of High Pass sharpening. At a Nikon School class on CNX2, the instructor suggested setting radius equal to teh number of pixels in the camera's full sized image, then use opacity to adjust the strength. In Capture NX2 that would be a setting of 12 for a D300, 10 for a V1, 16 for a D7000 or D4, and 36 for a D800/800E. I find this can be a little strong for my taste and prefer a setting of 50-60% of pixels and then use opacity as needed.

Sharpening for final presentation
Especially with images that are resized, I find that additional sharpening may be required. This is especially true if an image is reduced in size as the pixels that create sharpening are combined reducing their impact. Given the large image size of the D800 file, downsizing will be a normal part of processing so I expect to need a bit more sharpening for 8x10 prints.

Given that we have so much latitude to crop images, we have a wide range of potential image sizes even from the same camera. My take is we need to look at final presentation after resizing to understand the true size of our image for final sharpening.

Eric Bowles
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