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Entry level DSLR - scenic & Birds

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Posted on 4 Feb 2013 10:51:36 GMT
Neill says:
Maybe people are misunderstanding what the purpose of RAW is. It isn't a format to compete with jpg not is it a case that anybody ever said jpegs from RAW files are better. What RAW does is allow you to manipulate an image in a way that shooting in jpg can't. This is particularly a problem with the more creative types of photography, shots of wildlife will probably need little or no adjustment.

It is source data of an image which allows you to rethink the image and the settings you used on the initial shot. Regardless of what processing appears to be best and all that other stuff...if you shoot only in Jpeg, you can't adjust in the way you can if you use RAW, this is especially true of white balance issues. Take a few pictures of people indoors without a flash and then play around with the picture style, you'll see the massive differences available by using RAW.

There is a major problem with people advising others to not shoot raw, especially beginners: others can't tell what kind of pictures these people will take and for a beginner who is learning and maybe learning what fascinates them visually, that complete information in RAW is a wealth of knowledge. They will learn if they chose by exploring the parameters of RAW by playing with it and learn where issues arise from the settings they use on the camera.

Shooting in bright daylight will give pretty consistent results but use the same sharpness enhancements in a darker area and suddenly artefacts appear and you thank your luck stars the sharpness level can be lowered and the artefacts are gone without resorting to noise reduction or manually removing them.

As digital storage is so cheap these days, it would be foolish not to shoot RAW, it's like throwing away your negatives.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2013 22:40:54 GMT
T.J.Byford says:
Hi, Graham,

It wouldn't surprise me in the least. As you very well know, an in-camera jpeg is only the RAW converted in the camera, so if Fuji get the adjustment parameters spot on, how could any other RAW to jpeg converter actually better it? As I mentioned in my reply to Pixel Pete, RAW is definitely more versatile, but the end result jpeg isn't inherently better than a properly executed in-camera jpeg.

Over many years now I've read reviews in dpreview where the results using different third party RAW converters clearly showed differences in the converted images. It would be natural to expect that a camera manufacturer should get better results out of its own digital files than a third party converter. I believe this is still especially so with Nikon RAW files, as Nikon does not, or certainly did not when I read it, release full details of its RAW file format code to third parties. Nikon keeps a little up its sleeve.

It is said that the best results for Panasonic RAW are generally obtained by using Ichikawa's Silkypix, with which Panasonic has ties and issues a bespoke version specifically for each model Lumix sold. Review sites don't use this, preferring ACR. The software will not work with any other camera. I've never used it, until very recently, because it was very quirky in operation and it used its own descriptors/names for the various functions, and which made it almost incomprehensible, as it never really explained each function!

I said recently, because there is now a new version available to Panasonic owners with a supported Panasonic camera, and today I decided to buy it. I've only been able to play with it a little and it will require a new learning curve to work my may round it. But Ichikawa make some very interesting claims for it, especially the new noise algorithms, and another which has me completely baffled.

They claim a sort of "reverse engineering" when working on jpeg's and TIFF's which have been converted from a Panasonic RAW file. Thus when processing a jpeg or TIFF the processor is able to work on it almost as though it were a RAW. No detailed explanation other than to add it isn't exactly RAW, but a sort of half-way house! I'm going to try experiment with some of my Panny jpegs and compare them to the same image modified in other software. Could prove interesting.

Posted on 3 Feb 2013 21:13:59 GMT
Neill says:
You should be aware that Save as will only give you a new file if you change the name and/or where you are going to save it. If you save as in the same place and same name it will ask if you want to overwrite it.

I think the RAW editor free on ubuntu software centre handles pretty much all RAW types but on windows systems everybody tries to charge you a fortune. Canon's DPP software which comes free with cameras handles its RAW files. One would hope Nikon have a similar sort of thing for free.

Posted on 3 Feb 2013 20:59:45 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
Top description T.J, and very true.

Incidentally, I've heard from several sources (although I've not tried myself) that the JPEG images produced in-camerafrom my Fujifilm X10 are better quality than a picture produced by external means from it's RAW files.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Feb 2013 19:41:18 GMT
T.J.Byford says:
Pixel Pete.

You are very welcome; I am pleased you found it useful.

Posted on 3 Feb 2013 18:50:16 GMT
Hello and thank you very much Mr T J Byford. I am definitely the wrong side of 65 as you correctly deduce from my posting and am very much a silver surfer.
First I cannot thank you enough for this brilliant explanation of RAW photographic files on SLRs. With the help of my grandson I have just had it printed out to peruse at my leisure!
I suppose it takes someone of a certain age to best explain modern camera technology to someone of a certain age.

I have only ever used 35mm film SLRs and do not own a modern camera but I have tried my son's Nikon and it's tempting I must say.
Once again, thank you for your kind time.

Posted on 3 Feb 2013 13:00:05 GMT
Last edited by the author on 3 Feb 2013 13:12:23 GMT
T.J.Byford says:
Hello, Pixel Pete.

Earlier you posted a question about RAW, and there have been some responses. Seeing that you purchased your Nikon F in 1960, I know we will be of the same age group i.e. over 65! It seems you've got the basics from your understanding of your grandson's explanation of WAV and mp3 music formats.

In the days when you used film, there was very little you could do to change how it looked; basically you used Kodak or Fuji, for example, because you preferred the colour rendition of one over the other. Then your only other choice was to buy daylight or tungsten balanced film, which were balanced for 5500K and 3200K respectively. If one was really keen, you could fine tune this using a colour meter and Wratten type correction filters to match the actual colour temperature of the sun or tungsten lighting to match it to that of the film. I'm sure this is old hat to you.

Now when it comes to electronic, i.e. digital recording of images, the sensor records data about the image, but this is not yet usable until that data has been processed into a format that we can see. This original data is called RAW, simply because it hasn't had any processing applied to it. Think in terms of a colour negative. What use is this by itself? Nothing, until it has been further processed into a positive print. So, getting back to the digital data, you can now see why this is often referred to as a digital negative, this RAW digital data needs further processing to get it to the stage where it resembles a normal looking image.

In getting to this stage there are lots of adjustment tools in digital editing software that can dramatically alter the appearance of how the actual final print will look. Colour balance, White Balance as it is known, can be corrected if the camera got it wrong, exposure correction, sharpening, saturation, hue, tint, and digital noise reduction, amongst a number of other corrections, can be applied, all to achieve a digital file that can be used to make a print.

You are now at the stage where you want to make a print based on the adjustments applied to the RAW file. And, of course, you will want to save it in a format that is more readily accessible for printing either at home or commercially. In the case of the latter, they do not want your RAW file, but one they can readily use. It is at this point that you have the option to determine the quality of the file you are saving, and which will "finalise" your RAW file for printing. The two options generally favoured are jpeg and TIFF. Jpeg is a compression format, the digital image equivalent of the music mp3 file. Quality can still be excellent, but being a compressed file, whilst it saves on file storage space, it does have limitations when it comes to very large prints, or cropped images, when what are termed "jaggies" can be seen clearly in straight lines. TIFF is the highest quality, it is uncompressed and results in huge file sizes. And I do mean huge.

The big advantage of a RAW file is it is never changed. It remains in its original virgin form, to be used over and over again, if one wishes to change any parameter to achieve a different looking print. You have to be careful when editing a jpeg or TIFF. Whilst these can still be modified to some degree by using the same editing tools you'd use on a RAW file, albeit with never the same versatility, if after applying corrections you hit "Save" you immediately overwrite the jpeg or TIFF, and lose the one you were working on. One always has to remember to "Save As", which will give you a new file, but retains the original as well.

All dslr's shoot in RAW as one option, and clearly this is best, but not all digital cameras do; you most certainly won't find it on entry level compacts and even going up the price range won't necessarily offer it, although in the mid to upper price range, it is finding its way into more models. The other thing about RAW, it isn't a recognised standard in the way that jpeg and TIFF are universal standards. Each camera maker has its own version of RAW and NEF, by the way, is Nikon's proprietary version, and not all third party editing programmes will open up all the RAW files there are, and when new cameras come out, you could find its RAW file is not supported until the software company issues an update, if at all. This is at least one advantage that jpeg and TIFF have, they can be opened by all editing programmes, no matter how old the programme is.

Incidentally, Adobe issued a RAW format called DNG with the intention that it could be used as a universal standard. They offer a free download of their DNG Converter and which will convert any camera's RAW files to DNG, and increasingly one is finding more and more editing software supports it. I use this as well as working on my cameras' original RAW files, but one needs to ensure the original is retained, rather than being overwritten.

Finally, one comment about RAW. It is often stated that it produces superior images to in-camera jpegs. Yes, it can, but a properly processed RAW file, that doesn't require a lot of post processing, is often not that much different to the same jpeg image shot in-camera. If you don't go in for a lot of post processing, or simply don't want to, then a jpeg straight out of a quality camera will invariably be just as good, 99% of the time. Now some reading this may cry "Heresy" but its true. The big advantage to RAW, and which is why serious photographers need it, is its versatility in post processing, where it can be corrected for errors and which would be impossible with a Jpeg or TIFF.

Posted on 2 Feb 2013 01:35:52 GMT
Last edited by the author on 2 Feb 2013 01:41:41 GMT
Zelazowa says:
Just a few points to add to the suggestions so far.
From what position are the images lacking clarity? As you look at the monitor or as prints of what size already?
Are they lacking a certain clarity compared to other photos side by side?
Are all your photos lacking this clarity?
Before you splash out on another camera I think it's worth checking these points as you have an excellent camera already.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Feb 2013 06:35:21 GMT
Neill says:
Richard, If you can afford it, I would encourage you toward the d3200 but read all the way through. See if you can go in to a local pc world and have a look at one to see if the 18-55mm kit lens would take you in close enough at the distance you shoot from ( I doubt it will) then zoom in on the photo itself. 24mp will give you stunning cropping possibilities.

But you know your personal budget and the distances you shoot from.

But like Dr G says, try a tripod and also consider your ISO setting. I believe your lowest/most detailed ISO on the SX20 is 80, set it to that and use a tripod, and if you have a lens pen treat your glass to a shine.

At that point you should know whether you have reached the limitations of your current camera. But with a DSLR, you'll be lucky to use just one lens. If you did, it would probably be a 70-300mm and shoot from a distance. They also have a good macro so you can still get in quite close.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Feb 2013 00:25:25 GMT
Hi is the lack of clarity mainly at long telephoto settings? If si it could be camera shake. You may only need a tripod.

Posted on 1 Feb 2013 00:16:04 GMT
Last edited by the author on 1 Feb 2013 00:16:41 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:
Well Richard, any DSLR will bring with it a massive increase in technical picture quality. What makes the difference is the size of the sensor. Not in terms of megapixels, because anything over around 6mp is more than enough to print at huge resolution. What we're looking for is the largest physical size of sensor we can get in terms of surface area.
A reasonably priced DSLR has a sensor many times larger than that in even an expensive compact. This really allows the best results to be obtained from the (interchangeable) lenses.

Canon or Nikon? Purely down to whatever you like the look and feel of. Each is as good as the other for all practical purposes. I'm a Nikon user because I prefer the feel of them and the way the controls are laid out, which is more logical to my mind than those of Canon. But there's no right or wrong. Whichever one you get on best with is the one for you.

The D3200 or the older (and now cheaper) D3100 would each do admirably for what you want to use the camera for.

Posted on 31 Jan 2013 18:44:45 GMT
I am working on a photo book of local scenery. and wildlife on and around a river. I have been using a Canon SX20 IS with a 20 x zoom and been pleased with it: it is really portable, and its 12.1 MPs have seemed adequate. However as I have progressed I realise the images lack a certain clarity. The final printed size will be up to 480mm wide x 205 high, though most smaller typically 210 x 140.
I think I need DLSR - do I go to Canon 600D or Nikon D3200? I really only want to use one general lens if possible.

Posted on 29 Jan 2013 23:03:24 GMT
Zelazowa says:
With care there is no reason why this one won't last. It's mainly of aluminium I believe with hard plastic on the ball and socket head. It doesn't extend to a full height though... up to about 3 feet.

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jan 2013 22:06:07 GMT
Neill says:
Were there any plastic pieces on the Lidl tripod? ie knobs and other moveable parts which could crack easily with repeated use.

Posted on 29 Jan 2013 21:46:36 GMT
Zelazowa says:
I have the Lidl tripod that is surprisingly well made. I use it with my Zenit E and my Praktica and it does the job. It's very light and so far no problems. Nice price too.

Posted on 28 Jan 2013 06:48:31 GMT
Neill says:
Maybe try one of these.

In reply to an earlier post on 28 Jan 2013 06:40:25 GMT
Neill says:
With cheap stuff, it's especially sensible to buy online so you can return it straight away if you don't trust it. There's no reason to put your kit at risk.

Posted on 27 Jan 2013 22:19:08 GMT
Zelazowa says:
Yes a good point as you say Dr A... my son has a Manfrotto that he uses for medium format photography. It feels like it weighs around 4 pounds or so and is even dolly compatible. Don't spoil the ship.......

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2013 20:40:25 GMT
Good point - I bought a big Manfrotto second hand.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2013 18:41:05 GMT
C. Brush says:
I must be honest why would anyone want to put their expensive camera and lens at risk by trusting a poor quality cheap tripod! Good camera gear doesn't lose a fortune. If you find you don't need something sell it via a photography forum and it won't have cost the eart to try it!

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2013 18:40:58 GMT
C. Brush says:
I must be honest why would anyone want to put their expensive camera and lens at risk by trusting a poor quality cheap tripod! Good camera gear doesn't lose a fortune. If you find you don't need something sell it via a photography forum and it won't have cost the eart to try it!

Posted on 27 Jan 2013 18:08:10 GMT
Neill says:
RAW/NEF is available on all digital SLRs and some high end compacts. Yes, that's kind of it with the audio files but WAV was invented much later than the CD. CDs have a PCM file which id headed by a .cda file. There are several lossless file types including .wav.

With RAW you still have to convert it to jpg but while it's RAW you can play around with it more. Think of the other file types as printed images and RAW as a very flexible negative. Once it's a black and white jpeg, you can't convert that back to colour. RAW can always be changed around. All my RAWs are kept, just like negs.

So my process begins with uploading RAW files on to my PC and "developing" them there....sometimes it just means converting and saving to jpg, other times I switch to colour and play with the white balance etc then convert it. Then I open the converted file in Gimp and play around with it, flip the image around maybe cut bits out to use in compositions or just as an experiment to see if the light looks right when combining it with another image...I take a car from one image and put it on top of a hat in another.

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jan 2013 17:41:43 GMT
Neill says:
Yeah, I've read a few bad reviews and they do seem a bit hit and miss, I got my bilora from a bootsale about 20 years ago for about 3....and it's all metal.

I'd be tempted to try one of the hama ones though, do you think you might have been unlucky? The 62 has 307 reviews, over 250 are 4 and 5 stars.

Posted on 27 Jan 2013 17:27:00 GMT
Thank you Neal for your helpful advice.
I know it is well intentioned but you have lost me with that paragraph about WW2?
For 50 years I've just been popping a roll of 35mm in to my Nikons and taking some lovely photographs. My first SLR was the Nikon F that I bought in 1960.

On the subject of WW2, my father's brother, they are French, worked as a cryptographer at Bletchley Park until the fall of France.

Is the ability to shoot RAW available on all digital cameras?
My grandson who is in to music said that RAW would be like the equivalent to a WAV? which is the format on the average compact disc player. He explained that you can further compress the music to fit in to more space by making it an mp3 of various qualities but the average human ear is unlikely to notice the difference as only the important bits are kept.

If a JPEG and a RAW file were shown side by side is the difference obvious?

Posted on 27 Jan 2013 12:25:17 GMT
G. E. Hearn says:

My issue with the Hama tripods is the stays that extend from the central post out to the legs. They're aluminium, which is fine, but the ends of them (where the rivets go through to secure them) are made from very brittle ABS plastic. Mine broke as soon as I opened it and I've read other reviews where the same thing's happened.
It seems to be a problem with all the 'Star' range. I'd buy a decent one secondhand if I was after a tripod on a budget now. Charity shops are full of good 'uns from the 70's for peanuts.
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