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M8 Uncompressed 14-bit DNG
Old 11-14-2013   #1
Doug
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M8 Uncompressed 14-bit DNG

It’s been noted that the Leica M8 saves its DNG files in a compressed form, reduced from 14-bit data to 8-bit. The lossy nature of this compression may be disturbing.

There turns out to be a way to enter the M8’s service mode and choose to output in an uncompressed raw format, not DNG. Then the trick is to use a software app to convert the raw file to a 16-bit DNG containing 14-bit data.

More info on this web site: http://m8raw2dng.de where there’s some brief info including the technique for entering the M8 Service Mode, and you can download the raw->DNG app for Windows, MacOSX or Linux.

Then... Do you like the ouput? Improved over the 8-bit results? Drawbacks?
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Old 11-14-2013   #2
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Thanks for the heads up. I was following this when the first samples came out and was waiting for the Mac OSX tool. I will definitely try this out.
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Old 11-16-2013   #3
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Funny experiment. Went out today to take photos of the morning mist and tried this setting. From a usability point of view this is inconvenient. Whenever the camera is switched off or goes to sleep you have to activate the RAW feature again in the service menu with this weird button action. The RAW files are double the size of the DNGs. If the camera has to process RAW+JPG (no RAW-only option available), then it takes much longer to write an image to the card. When you are at home you need the converter to build DNGs from the RAW and the JPGs. The DNGs have a strange and huge magenta color cast. In LR I have to tune the magenta/green slider in camera calibration to a value from -30 up to -70 to get rid of it. But still the colors are not what I know from the M8 so I have to learn again to get my colors from these files.

Maybe all the hassle was worth it if I could see an image quality improvement. When someone expected smoother transitions between similar colors or something like that, a least I could not find this. I'm not going to use this setting again.
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Old 11-16-2013   #4
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Sounds like a nightmare......
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Old 11-16-2013   #5
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nice to know this is at least possible, if not very usable and convenient.

edit: seems the project is still in early phase, perhaps raw files can be improved in coming versions.
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Old 11-16-2013   #6
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Hello RFF members & M8 owners,

I am the developer of mentioned tool and stumbled on this thread while checking if my page can be found by google. It took a while for my account here to get activated so excuse me for not having answered earlier.

Allow me to address some of the issues mentioned by previous posters:
1.) the tool really is at a very early state. Give me some time and some input and I can improve it. Up till now I could only do my own testing with my M8 and one single lens.

2.) it is not convenient to set the auto-power down function and use the RAW+JPG option. You can either set the camera to always on or use the setting for a specific shooting where you want the maximum amount of data.

3.) I admit that there is more data to write but I tried it in continuous shooting mode and didn't notice a difference. The RAW file is acquired anyway so the longest time (I guess) is used for the JPG conversion. I would really like to shoot RAW only...

4.) I myself am a Lightroom user so I am aware of the issue with the color cast and I am working on it. The problem mainly is that lightroom treats the files as if they were standard M8 raw files which they are not.

I would recommend for everyone who is interested to try for themselves. I am not saying that my tool is the only option to make nice photos with a M8 or that it will turn your M8 into a M240 but I think there is some potential.

Feel free to try for yourself. Don't be worried, it's not a nightmare (I would have released on Halloween then )

Greetings,
Arvid
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Old 11-16-2013   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bla View Post
Hello RFF members & M8 owners,

I am the developer of mentioned tool and stumbled on this thread while checking if my page can be found by google. It took a while for my account here to get activated so excuse me for not having answered earlier.

Allow me to address some of the issues mentioned by previous posters:
1.) the tool really is at a very early state. Give me some time and some input and I can improve it. Up till now I could only do my own testing with my M8 and one single lens.

2.) it is not convenient to set the auto-power down function and use the RAW+JPG option. You can either set the camera to always on or use the setting for a specific shooting where you want the maximum amount of data.

3.) I admit that there is more data to write but I tried it in continuous shooting mode and didn't notice a difference. The RAW file is acquired anyway so the longest time (I guess) is used for the JPG conversion. I would really like to shoot RAW only...

4.) I myself am a Lightroom user so I am aware of the issue with the color cast and I am working on it. The problem mainly is that lightroom treats the files as if they were standard M8 raw files which they are not.

I would recommend for everyone who is interested to try for themselves. I am not saying that my tool is the only option to make nice photos with a M8 or that it will turn your M8 into a M240 but I think there is some potential.

Feel free to try for yourself. Don't be worried, it's not a nightmare (I would have released on Halloween then )

Greetings,
Arvid
Hello Arvid,

I apreciate your work but during my tests I didn't find an evidence for a benefit in the uncompressed files. It may be that I was looking at the wrong places or my outdoor test environment was not sufficient

Do you have some examples or can you explain scenarios where the uncompressed file shows advantages?
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Old 11-16-2013   #8
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Hi Tom,

Quote:
Originally Posted by tom.w.bn View Post
Do you have some examples or can you explain scenarios where the uncompressed file shows advantages?
This is what I try to find out myself and what I hope users testing the files will decide. It is hard to say right now because as long as the raw converters do not handle the files correctly you won't get the best possible result in postprocessing.

I have gotten feedback where people noticed different noise pattern in the shadows & more detail.

Personally I think that my PC and a good software should be better than the processor in my 7 year old M8. So this is what I try to achieve. Make it better. I just can't say how far I can push the limit.

I appreciate your feedback even though it was originally not directed at me and I encourage other interested M8 users to make their own "funny experiments" and report so I can lean back if they are happy or fix issues that they found. I simply don't have the time and possibilities to develop and test every possible situation at the same time so I am dependent on user feedback.

Visit my site m8raw2dng.de

Happy shooting and long live your M8

Arvid

PS: I just noticed I forgot an important aspect: you shouldn't use any other ISO than base-ISO 160 when shooting RAW. All the other ISO values are derived from the base-ISO acquisition and do not provide any additional information but throw away some information. I plan to explain this more detailed in the information section on my page soon.
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Old 11-17-2013   #9
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nice job Arvid! hope you get help and feedback from M8 users!
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Old 11-17-2013   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bla View Post

...

PS: I just noticed I forgot an important aspect: you shouldn't use any other ISO than base-ISO 160 when shooting RAW. All the other ISO values are derived from the base-ISO acquisition and do not provide any additional information but throw away some information. I plan to explain this more detailed in the information section on my page soon.
This the case for many cameras. Using ISO above base ISO has no real advantage. However many Canon cameras actually benefit from increased ISO with regard to shadow noise. This has to do with the odd ADCs Canon uses in those bodies.
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Old 11-19-2013   #11
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Hello M8 users @rff,

I created the next release version. The magenta color cast is now gone (in almost all cases) and there are some nice additional features (like creating your own lens database for correct exif)

Feel free to test and report your findings!

Arvid
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Old 11-22-2013   #12
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I am genuinely confused. Neither this thread nor the linked web site explain what this software is, how it is used or what it does. It seems like a secret that I am not privvy to. Can someone do the right thing and explain please.
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Old 11-23-2013   #13
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Hi Peter - The M8 captures raw data in 14 bits, does a little pre-processing according to presets for specific lenses, then compresses the result into an 8 bit DNG, saved to the SD card. Unlike the M240, this is a "lossy" compression. So some data is discarded before the file is even saved, and one might wonder if there could be a way of getting a full 14 bit file... somehow. And if that file's extra data is a visible improvement.

Therefore this thread and Arvid's software hack. With the 14 bit raw capture file obtained through the service mode selection, the software intelligently converts this raw data to a 16 bit DNG that we can further process as normal.
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Old 11-23-2013   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peterm1 View Post
I am genuinely confused. Neither this thread nor the linked web site explain what this software is, how it is used or what it does. It seems like a secret that I am not privvy to. Can someone do the right thing and explain please.
I found all information buried in some pages when I tried it. The tool takes the .JPG and .RAW files and makes .DNG files from it that you can load into LR or every other raw converter. It does not work without the .JPG files so don't delete them before you converted.

It's a command line tool. Download it and make it available somewhere in a system path.

How you call it is described in Information -> Tool parameters.

I opened a system command box, navigated to the directory with the image files and I think I started it without any parameter (m8raw2dng). After it is ready you find the DNG-files in that directory
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Old 11-23-2013   #15
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not owning M8 currently, would love to see results. images processed with this tool.
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Old 11-23-2013   #16
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Did some quick test shots from a tripod and applied the new version of the converter tool. When you apply the -c option then the magenta cast is gone because LR does not apply certain M8 specific settings. Now both files look very similar.

At infinte I still can't see a difference in the details at 100%. In the indoor shots I saw some subtle differences in the noise patterns on a wall (only visible at 100%). You have to search hard for it to see it so it's not really relevant for practical use.

But an amazing thing happened. The original M8 files are 3916x2634 pixels. That's not exactly 3:2. The converted files are 3964x2642 pixels (more like 3:2) and there is more content in the file, not just a black frame. What happened here? There seems to be a bit more on the sensor and Leica (or LR?) cropped it away in the original files?
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Old 11-23-2013   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom.w.bn View Post
... But an amazing thing happened. The original M8 files are 3916x2634 pixels. That's not exactly 3:2. The converted files are 3964x2642 pixels (more like 3:2) and there is more content in the file, not just a black frame. What happened here? There seems to be a bit more on the sensor and Leica (or LR?) cropped it away in the original files?
My (possibly incomplete) understanding is the output of these "extra" rows and columns of edge pixels are used when calculating the RGB readings from the Bayer filter array. But, being near the edge of the sensor chip, they don't get the full benefit of the averaging themselves, and the averaging then for them is incomplete. So, while the readings from these photo sites are used to help averaging neighboring inboard pixels, they themselves don't have complete information and they are not saved to the DNG.

I think the difference in the pixel count is reflected in the camera's specs and the term "effective pixels".

It would be interesting to see if the "extra" columns and rows saved in the 14-bit raw file show any difference in color or other attribute compared to others just inboard of them. See anything there, Tom?
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Old 11-24-2013   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug View Post
Hi Peter - The M8 captures raw data in 14 bits, does a little pre-processing according to presets for specific lenses, then compresses the result into an 8 bit DNG, saved to the SD card. Unlike the M9, this is a "lossy" compression. So some data is discarded before the file is even saved, and one might wonder if there could be a way of getting a full 14 bit file... somehow. And if that file's extra data is a visible improvement.

Therefore this thread and Arvid's software hack. With the 14 bit raw capture file obtained through the service mode selection, the software intelligently converts this raw data to a 16 bit DNG that we can further process as normal.
As far as I am aware the M9 uses the same compression as the M8 does. The Typ 240 uses a truly lossless compression.
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Old 11-24-2013   #19
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Wups, my error, Jaap... Confusion arises as I just got a M240 and sold my M9!

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Old 11-25-2013   #20
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So in your opinion it's not worth the trouble?
At least the color cast problem with the converter is solved. So I will try some high iso shots next weekend with original DNG and RAW. If don't see a difference in these shots, than my conclusion will be that the RAW files don't have a benefit and that Leica did a pretty good job with the compression.
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Old 11-25-2013   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jaapv View Post
As far as I am aware the M9 uses the same compression as the M8 does. The Typ 240 uses a truly lossless compression.
Are you saying that the uncompressed mode on the M9 is still compressed? So really it's a mode of "more compression" and "less compression"?

In any case, I really doubt the big difference in a case like this would be noise pattern, I would rather believe that the difference would be in tonal transitions between colors that are really close to each other in tone, but most of all gradation in shadows when pushing the exposure.
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Old 11-25-2013   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennylovrin View Post
Are you saying that the uncompressed mode on the M9 is still compressed? So really it's a mode of "more compression" and "less compression"?...
No, compressed is compressed, and in a lossy way like the M8 as I understand it, and the M9 adds an uncompressed option that the M8 does not have. This effort described here is an attempt to create an uncompressed M8 file.
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Old 11-26-2013   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug View Post
No, compressed is compressed, and in a lossy way like the M8 as I understand it, and the M9 adds an uncompressed option that the M8 does not have. This effort described here is an attempt to create an uncompressed M8 file.
Yeah that Is what I suspected, but as jaapv mentioned the M240 uses truly lossless compression I was a bit stumped..

On a different note, I have compared the compressed and uncompressed DNG on my M9, I'd like to say that I saw a difference, but it would be so slight that it could be my imagination. In the end though I use uncompressed anyway as I don't see any real point in not using it, even though a huge photo library can be a pain in the ass, it's not that expensive with hard drives..
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Old 11-26-2013   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kennylovrin View Post
Yeah that Is what I suspected, but as jaapv mentioned the M240 uses truly lossless compression I was a bit stumped..
Jaap is right, lossless compression in the M240 and also the S/S2... it's like zip compression: Zip it and the file is smaller, unzip and you have the original file again without loss of information. Same sort of idea.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kennylovrin View Post
On a different note, I have compared the compressed and uncompressed DNG on my M9, I'd like to say that I saw a difference, but it would be so slight that it could be my imagination. In the end though I use uncompressed anyway as I don't see any real point in not using it, even though a huge photo library can be a pain in the ass, it's not that expensive with hard drives..
Similar here... I couldn't be sure there was a difference in practice, but I chose the Compressed option. I don't have an M9 now, but plan to keep my M8, so this thread is interesting!
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Old 11-26-2013   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug View Post
Jaap is right, lossless compression in the M240 and also the S/S2... it's like zip compression: Zip it and the file is smaller, unzip and you have the original file again without loss of information. Same sort of idea.


Similar here... I couldn't be sure there was a difference in practice, but I chose the Compressed option. I don't have an M9 now, but plan to keep my M8, so this thread is interesting!
I am still confused then..

So you are saying that the _uncompressed_ mode on the M9 is still a lossy compression, whereas on the M it isn't? Or are you saying that uncompressed mode is still using a lossless compression, whereas on the M it isn't compressed at all?

It's one thing that the file is compressed, I don't see any problem there, but I would expect the uncompressed mode to at least not be a lossy compression algorithm.
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Old 11-26-2013   #26
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Originally Posted by kennylovrin View Post
I am still confused then..

So you are saying that the _uncompressed_ mode on the M9 is still a lossy compression, whereas on the M it isn't? Or are you saying that uncompressed mode is still using a lossless compression, whereas on the M it isn't compressed at all?

It's one thing that the file is compressed, I don't see any problem there, but I would expect the uncompressed mode to at least not be a lossy compression algorithm.
Sorry I've been unable to make it clear... I'll try a grid, but first there is no compression (lossy or not) in uncompressed files. Uncompressed mode uses no compression. Uncompressed mode is not available on the M8 except through the technique mentioned in this thread.

..........................M8 ...........M9 ...........M240
Compression ..... Lossy .......Lossy .......Not lossy
Uncompressed .....n/a ......No compr ....No compr
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Old 11-26-2013   #27
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Ah now I see what you mean, didn't think about compressed mode for the M.
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Old 11-27-2013   #28
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I tried this today and after looking at the histogram I found that the image has a somewhat compressed histogram in the blue channel, but not red and green. It may be because the lighting was a little warm, but it looks quite strange. Any thoughts on that?
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Old 11-28-2013   #29
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Any thoughts on that?
pls you show the photo as well?
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Old 11-28-2013   #30
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It's difficult to show these images because it really depends on how you process it. This is the image after some processing to move the reds and greens closer. The blue will not cooperate.

Side note: This appears to be a problem when I boost the ISO to 2500, but not when I use ISO 160. However, when I take a ISO 160 image and post-process in Photoshop to get higher exposure, I get a pinkish tint as well. So in summary, it appears the response curve on the three channels are not acting in the same way.
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Old 11-28-2013   #31
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Problem solved... How can I delete a post from my ipad with forumRunner?
Glad you found a solution, Tom, but please consider that problems stated and solutions found can be useful for other members.
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Old 11-30-2013   #32
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Hey guys,

have been busy (though not on the tool so much, just became father )

So I see you are playing with the tool. Fine! I am sorry if the website does not explain everything in detail yet, I just need some time for it.

The last version does not produce magenta color casts any more, but you have to convert using the -b option for blacklevel estimation.

Actually the RAW files contain more pixels with full information, and I have no idea why they are excluded in the standard M8 DNG. I haven't measured, but there is a slight increase of the FOV and of course you now got perfect 3:2 aspect ratio.

If you have specific questions, you can contact me directly or ask here and I'll try to help of course. Just general "I don't get it" statements are hard to support It's really no big thing using it, you don't need to know much about computers and if you're on windows or mac you can use the droplet to apply the conversion without much fuss.

Have fun,

Arvid
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New version 1.2beta released
Old 02-23-2014   #33
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Lightbulb New version 1.2beta released

Hello M8 users,

the new v1.2beta of my tool is released.

What's new?

m8raw2dngv1.2
  1. fixes the vertical lines that appear on many sensors
  2. fixes the unevenly distribution of the darkest levels and the issue with two differently calibrated sensor halves that show up when pushing the files at underexposed shots.
  3. fixes the colour casts in the shadows, this time for real
  4. takes now also standard M8 DNG files to fix the lens exif data, apertures and the sensor issues
  5. runs now also on Mac OS X v10.7
  6. has been tested so far on nearly 1900 of my images successfully and is ready for you to take it to work on your files
The website has been modified and restructured, a lot of information and documentation has been added and will be added in the next time. The tool parameters are described and explained, there is a FAQ and a mailing list now, where you can subscribe to be notified on important updates.

So check it out, I have put an awful lot of work into it and am now really excited to get feedback on how it performs.

Contact me (preferably with the contact form on my site) if you have questions, suggestions, bug reports or something else to tell me.

Enjoy shooting and testing as much as I did enjoy the development!

Arvid
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Old 02-23-2014   #34
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Arvid, you clearly have been hard at work on this project, thanks! And congratulations on recent fatherhood too.
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Old 02-25-2014   #35
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this is using the latest hack and is ISO 2500 on my M8 using a 1964 cron 50 at f2

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Old 02-25-2014   #36
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PS: forgot to mention, thats using NO noise reduction in lightroom 3.6
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Old 04-12-2014   #37
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This is a great app. I am usually a base ISO shooter where possible, but I still try and remember to set up RAW shooting mode whenever I remember. Once you have the droplet function set up it's a very quick method of creating your 16-bit DNGs fro the RAW+jpeg combo. The author (Arvid) is very quick to provide feedback to queries and his website is very comprehensive fro what is essentially freeware ('donateware').
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Old 04-12-2014   #38
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The question is: did someone really observe a noticeable difference? I invested a lot of time and found exactly 0% improvement in dynamic range or noise.
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Old 04-12-2014   #39
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Neither dynamic range or signal-to-noise ratio would be affected. For M8/9 cameras at ISO 640 and below, thrse characteristics depend primarily on the exposure (light reading the sensor when the shutter is open) and the analog technical characteristics of the sensor's photo sites (quantum efficiency, full-well capacity, read noise) and the ADC read noise. Above ISO 640 the data stream read noise increases for reasons I don't understand.

The difference, if there is any, would be in the quality of changes in tone and color throughout the image.

Many companies use non-linear, lossy compression for raw data. The idea is if you only compress highlight regions, the discarded information mostly eliminates shot noise. In essence the non-linear lossy compression filters the shot noise from the brightest regions in the image. This can not improve the analog signal to noise ratio, but it can make bright, featureless areas such as the sky or water appear smoother. If you are going to discard information by implementing lossy compression, you might as well choose the least useful information. Besides, the mathematical model for shot noise is unambiguous. So one could even add the shot noise back into the image (of course no one does this).

It turns out SONY may need to improve their lossy raw compression. There are endless posts on other photography forums demonstrating and complaining about IQ degradation in SONY's raw, lossy-compression algorithms.

Everything I've read reports Leica's lossy raw compression methods do not have a significant impact on most images. I know from personal experience the same is true for Nikon. No doubt other brands also use lossy raw compression that has little or no effect on rendered IQ.
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Old 04-12-2014   #40
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Originally Posted by tom.w.bn View Post
The question is: did someone really observe a noticeable difference? I invested a lot of time and found exactly 0% improvement in dynamic range or noise.
That is not surprising. The (standard) decompressed M8 files behave much like 12-bit files ( like Nikon) albeit a bit stepped because of the LUT, which makes no difference in real life. One has to be exceedingly critical to find a significant difference in result between a 12-bit and a 14-bit file.
My guess is that the real advantage of this app is the raw conversion itself, involving dead pixel line handling, shadow detail and colour, etc.
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