Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2003/06/28

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Subject: [Leica] Digicam blues (whites and purples, actually)
From: Peter Klein <>
Date: Sat, 28 Jun 2003 19:57:32 -0700

My Nikon Coolpix 990 does a great job taking macro shots, especially when 
coupled with a reversed 35mm Summicron-M.  But it can be very frustrating 
when taking "normal" pictures with any lighting contrast.  Or when there's 
anything white in the picture.  The old color-TV addage about never wearing 
a white shirt on the set seems apt.

Based on suggestions here, I've turned off the auto white balance and set 
the autofocus and metering to lock when I half-press the shutter 
button.  This has lowered shutter lag to a sometimes tolerable level if I 
can prefocus.  I've also turned the in-camera sharpening off, which helps 
in minimizing artifacts.

Howevah. . . The dynamic range of the camera is maddeningly small.  I get 
blown highlights all the time.  It seems worse than slide film.  And I know 
how to shoot slide film--I've been doing it all my life.  I'm tempted to 
set the exposure compensation to minus 1/3 or 2/3 stop all the 
time.  There's also a contrast setting in the Coolpix menus.  Maybe I shoud 
set it to "Low."  Does anybody else do this kind of thing?

Graham, Sonny and Tina are shooting a lot with the Digilux or its Panasonic 
incarnation.  How do you folks deal with the dynamic range issue?

For example, Graham, in your shot of the two white geese here:
How did you expose, and do you have any customary settings you use to give 
you the best chance of capturing bright detail?

I'm almost tempted to carry my spot meter and use manual exposure.  But it 
seems ridiculous to use a camera with "conveniences" that you have to turn 
off in order to get a good shot, and where setting things manually is 
maddeningly awkward.  Using a Leica or my OM-2 and an external meter is 
actually faster than all that fumbling  :-)

Another interesting property of the digicam is that if I convert to B&W in 
Picture Window, I can often find a color channel that isn't blown, and 
emphasize that. But again, it seems kinda ridiculous to have to do that.

Any suggestions on improving things would be most welcome.

Anyway, I'm not complaining *too* much.  I know the Coolpix 990 is old and 
not really a professional-level camera.  I bought it as a learning tool. 
And I'm learning.  But I'm beginning to wonder whether I'll ever be 
satisfied with digital at its current state.  A friend with a Nikon D100 
tells me that his camera does the same thing, and he has to drastically 
underexpose and mess with Photoshop curves, and it still is inferior to 
film in many cases.  And then there's the purple fringing of bright-to-dark 
transitions, which seems to be endemic unless lenses and sensors are 
perfectly matched.

In the June National Geographic, there was an all-digital article about 
some "lake country."  Some of the pictures had precisely the same problems 
that I'm talking about. It really was a demonstration of all that is both 
marvelous and maddening about digital.

- --Peter

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Replies: Reply from "\(SonC\) Sonny Carter" <> (Re: [Leica] Digicam blues (whites and purples, actually))