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First bold steps into the digital world...need help!
Old 10-04-2012   #1
froyd
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First bold steps into the digital world...need help!

So, my RX100 is in the mail. This will be my first digicam with somewhat advanced features and I'm utterly confused. Hope some of the gurus can shed some light here:

-Can I shoot at 10mp without affecting any other IQ parameters other than the amount of detail recorded? I'm assuming the loss of detail will be insignificant for my use, i.e. enlargements under 8x10 and little cropping.

-How do multiple AF points work? How does the camera know what to pick as the subject? This truly boggles my mind as someone who never tried anything more advanced than single-point AF from the 90's. Of course, I understand that I can set the RX100 to single point focus or even MF, but I just don't understand what the multiple AF points do and when would it be useful to engage them.

- Why is there a need for an dynamic range optimization mode? My understanding is that the RAW files offer a lot of elasticity and can be used to recover lost details in the highlights and the shadows. Is this just a form of automation, like Auto Exposure? Or, does it actually expand the sensitivity of the sensor? If the latter shouldn't it be on all the time?
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Old 10-04-2012   #2
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Here is my stab at answering these knowing that others will be able to do a much better job.

1. Not knowing the RX100 specifically, I am assuming you mean shooting at one of the smaller file size options offered by the camera, in which case you should not lose anything thing IQ-wise other than resolution. Note that if you are shooting RAW, most cameras will not allow you to shoot at smaller sizes. That is a JPEG option. Also, unless you are very worried about your computer handling the full size files or maybe about the camera's writing speed, I am not sure if there is an advantage to shooting at 10MP. You can always resize on the computer plus the extra resolution gives you more to work with if you need to crop.

2. You know what, I'm not totally sure about this one. Maybe it goes by proximity and assumes you want to focus on the closest subject or maybe it's more sophisticated than that?? Not sure...

3. Those modes typically affect JPEG files only (the Ricoh GRDIV being one exception I can think of where it does some DR optimization on the RAW files). So, if you are shooting RAW, those settings will have no effect on the file.

Good luck!
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Quote:
Originally Posted by froyd View Post
So, my RX100 is in the mail. This will be my first digicam with somewhat advanced features and I'm utterly confused. Hope some of the gurus can shed some light here:

-Can I shoot at 10mp without affecting any other IQ parameters other than the amount of detail recorded? I'm assuming the loss of detail will be insignificant for my use, i.e. enlargements under 8x10 and little cropping.

-How do multiple AF points work? How does the camera know what to pick as the subject? This truly boggles my mind as someone who never tried anything more advanced than single-point AF from the 90's. Of course, I understand that I can set the RX100 to single point focus or even MF, but I just don't understand what the multiple AF points do and when would it be useful to engage them.

- Why is there a need for an dynamic range optimization mode? My understanding is that the RAW files offer a lot of elasticity and can be used to recover lost details in the highlights and the shadows. Is this just a form of automation, like Auto Exposure? Or, does it actually expand the sensitivity of the sensor? If the latter shouldn't it be on all the time?

Last edited by v_roma : 10-04-2012 at 12:25. Reason: Clarifying edits
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Old 10-04-2012   #3
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Think I will need some help too - got my RX100 in the post yesterday.
I have unpacked it and was surprised/pleased to find it's very nearly the size of the Lumix LX1 I've been using for the last couple of months.
Found a pdf file for the 'handbook' and putting off wondering what to print off. LOL That can be the one big decision I make on another day.
I've got a spare battery, battery charger, screen protector on order and don't intend to do much more until I have the latter.
In the mean time I'll continue to read revues etc.
I intend to take JPEG so any help, tips with settings will be useful.
Can't say that I am utterly confused, at least I don't think I am, but I might be.

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Old 10-04-2012   #4
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The RX100 uses contrast-detection AF, so, in multi-area mode, the AF module will automatically focus on the area within AF coverage that has the highest contrast.

And to anticipate your next question, yes, a lot of times the multi-area AF detection selects a different focus area than what you had intended. That's when you switch to single-area mode.

Many uses for multi-area mode, but one example would be if you have a moving subject -- in this case, multi-area mode is useful, especially when the multiple focus points are spread horiztontally to track laterally moving subjects (fairly common in DSLR's).

Personally, unless I'm shooting something that's moving, I just use single area mode.
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Old 10-04-2012   #5
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There is no practical reason not to use the entire sensor. I'm not sure how the RX-100 discards pixels, but it doesn't matter. One of the basic principles of data collection is to avoid throwing away data until you know you don't need it. The price of SD cards and disk storage are trivial compared to the other costs involved with photography.


The dynamic range of the camera simply is. Nothing effects the maximum dynamic range for a given electronic ISO value, There is no automation involved. The in-camera raw data is the same whether or not an in-camera jpeg is created. The camera can automatically compute the jpeg without knowing anything about the exposure or color temperature. You can manually select parameters that will render an in-camera jpeg. Or you can have total control over the final jpeg rendering by adjusting the rendering parameters in an application like Lightroom. I suggest you save jpegs and raw images together for a while. Then you can decide for yourself if using raw files is worthwhile for you.

However exposure can profoundly affect the dynamic range of the final image. The final raw file has signal (what you want to know) and noise (the uncertainty in the signal). You can not control the noise, it will be the same for a given ISO value (this is not true for very high or very low ISOs). But you can control the signal by using the greatest practical exposure.

The exposure should always be set so the maximum amount of light hits the sensor without overloading the sensor. This exposure strategy maximizes the signal. This means the digital bits used to represent the noise will be minimized which frees up more bits to represent the signal. More bits means more dynamic range.

Exposure strategies should be similar to those used with transparency film. When ISO is increased the total system noise increases. But for a perfect exposure the signal remains constant. If you must to double the shutter speed or decrease the aperture by a stop, the same amount of light (signal) will reach the sensor when the electronic amplification (ISO) is doubled. So at higher amplification (ISO), more bits are used to represent the noise and less bits are available to represent the signal.

If auto exposure includes has a safety factor to avoid over exposure, then the under exposure can reduce the dynamic range. But this effect should be small - especially if you manually render the raw files yourself.
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Old 10-04-2012   #6
froyd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
There is no practical reason not to use the entire sensor. I'm not sure how the RX-100 discards pixels, but it doesn't matter. One of the basic principles of data collection is to avoid throwing away data until you know you don't need it. The price of SD cards and disk storage are trivial compared to the other costs involved with photography.
In my case that might actually involve the cost of a better computer. But I'm not concerned about file write speeds or storage space.

Quote:
Originally Posted by willie_901 View Post
The dynamic range of the camera simply is. Nothing effects the maximum dynamic range for a given electronic ISO value, There is no automation involved. The in-camera raw data is the same whether or not an in-camera jpeg is created. The camera can automatically compute the jpeg without knowing anything about the exposure or color temperature. You can manually select parameters that will render an in-camera jpeg. Or you can have total control over the final jpeg rendering by adjusting the rendering parameters in an application like Lightroom. I suggest you save jpegs and raw images together for a while. Then you can decide for yourself if using raw files is worthwhile for you.

However exposure can profoundly affect the dynamic range of the final image. The final raw file has signal (what you want to know) and noise (the uncertainty in the signal). You can not control the noise, it will be the same for a given ISO value (this is not true for very high or very low ISOs). But you can control the signal by using the greatest practical exposure.

The exposure should always be set so the maximum amount of light hits the sensor without overloading the sensor. This exposure strategy maximizes the signal. This means the digital bits used to represent the noise will be minimized which frees up more bits to represent the signal. More bits means more dynamic range.

Exposure strategies should be similar to those used with transparency film. When ISO is increased the total system noise increases. But for a perfect exposure the signal remains constant. If you must to double the shutter speed or decrease the aperture by a stop, the same amount of light (signal) will reach the sensor when the electronic amplification (ISO) is doubled. So at higher amplification (ISO), more bits are used to represent the noise and less bits are available to represent the signal.

If auto exposure includes has a safety factor to avoid over exposure, then the under exposure can reduce the dynamic range. But this effect should be small - especially if you manually render the raw files yourself.
Thanks for the primer!
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Old 10-04-2012   #7
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Hello,

I can answer, with a good level of certainty, the first and second questions but I can only hypothesize about the last.

I strongly discourage people from reducing resolution within their cameras unless they have a clear reason to do so. As well, that they confirm with camera documentation or technical support regarding how the resolution is reduced.

In brief, as that is all the time i have, there are a few factors involved in sub-sampling an image.

First, a majority of digital cameras today, with a few exceptions, interpolate colour data between adjacent photo-sensitive sites. It is a poor analogy, but they electronically smudge colour from the neighboring red, green, blue (sometimes there are add'l colours) to determine the actual colour of each individual site.

Second, the mechanism that is storing the image onto a card can play a strong role in the results you obtain. That is the difference between RAW and the various degrees of loss-inducing JPEG compression.

The first thing you need to decide is if you are reducing the resolution so you can shoot more and save space long-term, or so you can shoot faster. I'm going to guess it is the first option from other things said.

Third, the way an image is sub-sampled is important and I'm confident Sony engineers are good at it, but there are trade-offs deepening upon your own personal goals.

If you are not shooting in RAW mode, and wish to save space, then you are substantially better to increase the compression-levels in-camera to squeeze more onto a card. JPEG compression is detail-oriented, the more it compresses, the more it throws away.

If your fine detail is now even finer because you've already thrown information away, then you will lose more than you bargain for.

Please note, the size changes are typically integer-based. So a reduction drops every second, third or fourth row. Since the colour information is based upon four adjacent photo-sites, one would think that it is more accurate because the colours are all merged into one. However colour is less than half of the actual perceived part of an image, the balance is luminance.

To close this off, even though a lot more could be said, you are far better off to keep the images in their full resolution state, with higher JPEG compression if necessary. Then, after choosing the images you wish to keep, making the adjustments to them and finally sub-sampling them, you will have superior colour, fine-detail and so forth than if you do so in camera.

As well, even though most of your work may be 4x6 to 8x10, shooting an amazing image that you can only print to the size of a 2004 digital camera seems to be a low expectation.

Indeed, you are entertaining the idea of throwing away valuable photographic information that is visible, potentially increasing moire issues, etc.

Over the years, I have run tests with these types of considerations for faster wire transfers etc. The comments I've made are based upon that, and truly, if you wish to store smaller files, you are far better to let software decide where it can squeeze the image with information we don't see.

My perspective is that storage is ultra-cheap these days. I picked up a fast, 32-gig card recently for well less than $1 per GB. It is a small price when compared to how much a roll of film used to cost to shoot and process... a very small price.

The other questions, the mulit-point AF, is as someone else noted usually contrast oriented. A sharp image will have the most localized contrast also known as detail contrast (which you propose reducing, by the way).

Old AF systems forced the shooter to focus in the center, then re-compose and shoot. Now, you can let the camera guess the best location, and for most of the time it does a reasonable job, or you can tell it to focus on one of the spots, center or not, and you can then compose, wait for the subject if necessary to do something interesting, and finally shoot when ready.

Dynamic-range optimization, I'm going to hypothesize in the Sony application, may be for JPEG images. The cameras shoot with a potential of several thousand shades of tonality for each site. The JPEG image typically only supports 256 shades. So the camera can readjust how it converts from 14-bits into 8-bits.

There are a lot more things that can go on with specialize shadow masking techniques, etc., and I cannot speak to their application of those types of calculations in-camera.

Regardless of their actual implementation, the concept is that you have a bucket to carry home some fruit. Do you fill the bucket with berries or do you include some of the leaves, stems and other inedible or undesirable elements. Odd analogy, but I mean to say that when you only have 256 shades of grey per colour, it is better to make as many of them as good as possible.

I should note that I've been in this digital gig for 24 years this month. This totally predates the present digi-cam era as I started in the newspaper and graphic-arts industry, pre-press and such.


Quote:
Originally Posted by froyd View Post
So, my RX100 is in the mail. This will be my first digicam with somewhat advanced features and I'm utterly confused. Hope some of the gurus can shed some light here:

-Can I shoot at 10mp without affecting any other IQ parameters other than the amount of detail recorded? I'm assuming the loss of detail will be insignificant for my use, i.e. enlargements under 8x10 and little cropping.

-How do multiple AF points work? How does the camera know what to pick as the subject? This truly boggles my mind as someone who never tried anything more advanced than single-point AF from the 90's. Of course, I understand that I can set the RX100 to single point focus or even MF, but I just don't understand what the multiple AF points do and when would it be useful to engage them.

- Why is there a need for an dynamic range optimization mode? My understanding is that the RAW files offer a lot of elasticity and can be used to recover lost details in the highlights and the shadows. Is this just a form of automation, like Auto Exposure? Or, does it actually expand the sensitivity of the sensor? If the latter shouldn't it be on all the time?
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Old 10-04-2012   #8
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In relation to your question I do not own your specific camera so cannot answer specifically for it.

But I have used many digital cameras and have at least some idea of their capabilities. In relation to multiple AF points it gets even more mind boggling than you imagine. In cameras I have used for example the AF system will track moving subjects as they move between different AF points, even predicting thier movement to refine focus further and allow for shutter lag. Moreover many cameras have the capacity to recognise faces (yes I said faces) and assume its the face you want to focus on. Whne this mode is switched on the camera will prioritise faces when deciding where the focus point should be.

My Nikon D700 often seems to have a magical ability to predict what I am a wanting to focus on and to then do that accurately. My Sony NEX 5 is somewhat more hit and miss, I find.

You do need to study your handbook carefully to get a handle on what each AF mode is programmed to do. For this reason unless I am trying to focus on something thats fast moving like a face in a moving crowd I will more often than not just revert to a single focus point and use that - at least I then know what the focus point is and any error is down to me.

My Nikon has a dynamic range optimisation mode which Nikon calls something like "Nikon D-lighting". It works pretty well. It has an auto mode as well as a low, medium, high and off mode. It is software based and does essentially what you would otherwise do in post processing on your computer using the Photoshop "levels" tool - it adjusts the relative balance between darks and lights to lower the contrast in the image automatically in-camera, as the image is being processed and saved. I have not checked but I assume it would not work on RAW files only JPGs. You can do the same in post processing "by hand" for RAW files etc. I tried using it on the high setting - where it works well in pulling shadow detail out in high contrast situations. But if I leave it on high in low contrast situations it can make the contrast even lower and hence the image look washed out. (At least with my camera). My NEX camera has something similar but I have not looked into it too closely although my impression is that it does not work quite as well as that on the D700. This would be partly because the D700 is a full frame camera and has a modest mega pixel count. That means its sensor characteristics are such that it also has better than average dynamic range perfromance even without software "tricks" like D-lighting.

While some argue that you should not use in camera software enhancements but instead just shoot RAW and then post process, this assumes you have the software and skills needed - as well as the desire for absolute best image quality. I have some sympathy for that point of view as I do have the software and at least some skills and enjoy post processing and the control and final image quality it gives me. But for others I say try the in-camera capabilities and see how they work for you. If you like the ability of the camera to do this stuff for you then why not take advantage of it.
I hope this helps.
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Old 10-05-2012   #9
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OK, got it, got it. You lot seem pretty adamant about shooting at full 20mp. I surrender!

...and that's how what was essentially a free camera becomes a $1000 expense almost overnight. The family's CFO will be pleased.
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Old 10-11-2012   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by digitalintrigue View Post
As far as focus, I use single focus point, and sometimes I'll enable focus tracking, even if I'm shooting a static subject. This way as I move the camera for framing, my desired focus point will remain in focus. This is like using a rangefinder, with a focus patch that moves around the viewfinder automatically! Focus on your subject, and reframe...the focus tracking will compensate.
I didn't even think of this, what a great idea! Thanks!
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Old 10-11-2012   #11
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Think of dynamic range optimisation (DRO) as a form of tone mapping. That is, if a lot of exposure values within the picture are concentrated within the dark tones, DRO will attempt to re-map their values to show good tonal separation in the darks, and re-map the lighter values within the picture accordingly to maintain a good approximation of a natural looking result.
As others have remarked, you can do this manually in photoshop but it takes some skill to do it well.
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