Friday, August 29, 2008

Part 2: Canon sRAW Noise and High ISO Test ( 40D reference for the 50D )

The previous test was quick and had a lot of variables I didn't bother to think about. This time I did, so I eliminated what I could.

I'm trying to figure out if the sRAW mode on Canon's recently announced 50D will be useful to me. So I'm testing the sRAW mode on the 40D and here are my next round comparison shots...

I decided to eliminate the resizing variable by changing my focal length so the same number of pixels are covering the same parts of the scene (I just cropped the RAW file to the sRAW dimensions and get the same view). The first pair is underexposed and shows the noise differences well, the middle pair is a normal exposure and shows sharpness differences well, and the 3rd pair doesn't change the focal length so the RAW file had to be re-sized to match the same view.

The previous test proved to me that noise was lower using sRAW. This one agrees. The previous test also made me wonder if sRAW was sharper too. This one seems to agree, but makes me realize that the question is more complicated than that. Yes, 4 sRAW pixels are sharper than 1 RAW pixel. The middle pair shows this very well. But that's not how I'd use the camera. I'd use it like the 3rd pair, and after resizing, they are similar.

This does lead me to a valuable conclusion: I expect that canon's 50D in sRAW mode at 7mp will be sharper, and have significantly less noise than an 8mp 30D. I already expected that, but now I'm convinced the difference will be drastic and worthwhile to me.

That means it's time to upgrade! YESSSS!

Other interesting conclusions: The sRAW file size is typically half the full RAW file size, which is unfortunate because the resolution is 1/4. Also, burst mode did last a little longer. I got about 17 RAW files out at 6.5fps, but could get over 20 sRAW files at 6.5fps and the buffer cleared faster. So sRAW mode isn't so much for when you want smaller files, but for fast action bursts at high ISOs.

Details: 24-70 2.8L at 35mm and 70mm and f/8, 70-200 2.8 L IS at 200mm and f/8, 40D, manual focus with live view, on tripod, using mirror lock up and cable release. RAW and sRAW files processed in Lightroom with everything zeroed. Jpegs at highest quality while cropping and bi-cubic resizing. 40D's high ISO noise reduction was OFF this time.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Canon sRAW Noise and High ISO Test ( 40D reference for the 50D )

When Canon announced the 50D, the specs that caught my attention were the sRAW modes. I liked the idea of sRAW mode on the 40D but couldn't manufacture a reason to shoot a 10mp sensor at 2.5mp. It looks like the 50D will shoot it's 15mp sensor at 7mp. For some of the things I shoot that sounds worthwhile. Then I wondered if those sRAW files would be less noisy at high ISO and just had to test it...

At first I shot a variety of exposures of the same scene and cropped the full size files to match the sRAW size. A noise difference didn't jump out at me at all. What did was how much sharper the sRAW files were. It looks like I either had image stabilization on in one shot and off in the other (which I didn't), or I used a much smaller aperture to get more depth of field (which I didn't). I'll have to try this again with a tripod and manual focusing.

Then I shot black frames (lens cap on at normally fast shutter speed) at ISO 1600 and 3200 in RAW and sRAW. That's where I see a huge difference in noise. Here's the ISO 3200 comparison. I see blatant noise reduction in sRAW. The noise in sRAw seems to be all luminance and no chroma too (someone please explain that to me). I also see more noise in the 40D at 3200 than the 30D at 3200 which is not what I expected (or was advertised). And I should mention that I had to beat the heck out of these black frames to get them to look this bad/obvious.

I did this test in 5 minutes. Please leave comments if you have suggestions for improving the method.
AWB, Manual Mode, ISO 3200 and 1600, 24-70 f/2.8 @ 70mm & f/4.5 on the 40D, 70-200 f/2.8 IS @ 70mm & f/4.5 on the 30D, handheld, autofocus on middle point at closest flower, raw files 'barely processed' in Lightroom, no manipulation (everything zeroed) on the flower shots, for the black frames only exposure slider set to +4, output was full jpg at max quality.
jpgs from sRAW files cropped to 800x800 near middle of frame. 300x300 corner for black frames.
jpgs from RAW files bicubic downsized to match sRAW dimensions (1944x1296) then cropped to 800x800 near middle of frame.
for exaggerating black frame noise: cropped 300x300 bottom right corner (because noise appeared strongest there in the 40D) then up rezed 200%, brightness +50 and contrast +25 to exaggerate for visibility.

I have high hopes for the 50D and its sRAW modes now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach is on the north west coast of Oregon. And it's really cool. C and I went there for a weekend to relax. The main attraction at Cannon Beach is a massive sea stack called Haystack Rock. The view from Ecola park is by far the best because, at least when we were there, there were way fewer people. I was surprised how many people try to surf there?
I got to use my newest lens (70-200 2.8 L IS) for the first time and absolutely love it. The garden at our B&B ( St. Bernard's Arch Cape House) was where I shot all the flowers (and the snake). The crazy red and white photos are my infrared shots that I thought looked better without converting to black and white.

Click here to see the rest of the pictures

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Backpacking Noble Knob and Lost Lake

I think Lost Lake was meant to stay lost. (It will always be lost among all the other thousands of lakes by the same name) Maybe it's not so bad from an easier direction? We stayed there after a rough 8 mile hike that took us past Noble Knob with a detour to George Lake when we ran out of water. The trail goes up and down along a ridge and the lakes are all at the bottom of the valleys. So we had a lot of elevation gain along the way.
We drove to the Corral Pass campsite on Friday afternoon and car camped for the night. In the morning we drove a few yards to the trail head parking lot and took off with our packs. The views of Mt. Rainier were great along the trail. Panoramic views from the Knob are fabulous (Beljica was better though). We saw three lakes from up there. The closest one had people all over and in it. We decided we didn't want to go there for the night. The next closest lake looked more brown than blue but we didn't see any people on it so we aimed for that one. Between the directions we had and the trail signs, or lack thereof, we ended up on the wrong trail which took us where we didn't want to go. Halfway there we could tell we were headed to the overcrowded lake but we couldn't stop because we were out of water. After discussing our options, we dropped the packs halfway to George Lake so we couldn't change our minds and stay there because we were too tired to keep going. We only took our water bottles, platypus and the filter. There were more people at the lake than we saw from the knob so we pumped water, drank it, pumped some more and left.
By then I was cranky and not looking forward to the 3 miles back up to the ridge and down the other side to the lake we hoped would have fewer people. Along the way C was nice enough to completely distract me from my complaining by asking questions about camera gear. She's so smart.
We found a nice large campsite at the north end of Lost Lake, dropped the packs and went swimming! It had been in the 80's or 90's all day so it really didn't matter how cold the water was. We've never gone swimming in an alpine lake before. But this one wasn't fed by glaciers (this time of year anyway) so it was reasonable.
While setting up the kitchen at our campsite that evening a fearless chipmunk appeared and was very interested in our chocolate. I thought it'd make some interesting photos so I put the whole bar on the ground and backed up to shoot him trying to open the wrapper. It was pretty dark by then so only a few worked.
It was still so hot when we went to bed that we had to pull the rain fly off the tent.
We got up and out really early because we were afraid of hiking up to the ridge in 80 degree heat. It was cloudy enough that we weren't too hot, but I was still sweating fat. And I managed to pull a back muscle lifting C's pack that morning.
The wild blueberries along the trail were delicious. And a cloudy Rainier is pretty photogenic.
It was a tough, but really good trip.


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Mountain Meadows Farm Company Picnic

This was my first time to Mountain Meadows Farm for a company picnic. I hope they do it there every year. I loved it. I was impressed with the food, games, and entertainment. Mt. Si in the background was fabulous too.
The thing I wanted to do the most was to get some fly fishing instructions since I heard there would be some. They had a few rods laying around and a pair of instructors to help whoever wanted to try. The instructors were great but I was really bad. Even C tried helping me after she figured it out. I told her I needed to try it in Alaska. Ha! I got the string tangled on the pole twice. That's pretty bad.
On our way out we stopped by the giant basketball court. That was totally cool. I don't think I ever made a basket but it was too fun to worry about things like that.

Seattle Mariners Baseball Game

C and I went to our annual (we only go about once a year) M's game with D and Z this year. It was tons 'o fun. I handed my 30D to D and turned it on high speed mode and she seemed to have a great time. I had a great time shooting the game in infrared.
The best part of the game is when we wander around the stadium. The views of, and from, Safeco field are amazing. They lost, but we had a great time.
And I shot this dude with crazy looking radio headphones.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Seafair 2008

I was only at Seafair this year long enough on Friday and Sunday to see the Blue Angels fly. On Friday I shot from the south end of the Seafair park. It was a pretty good spot, but trees got in the way when they came in from the south. So on Sunday I got on the Seattle side of the I-90 bridge. I'd say it's the best spot from what I've seen so far. It's also the worst place to park and the steep hike is rough. Lots of planes turn around right over that part of the bridge and it's easy to zoom in on the pilots. Just after one close pass an osprey flew over like he was a Blue Angel, so I shot him too.

click here to see the rest of the pictures