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Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/14/2009 21:23:15 MDT Print View

I am looking for a camera that will support High Dynamic Range post-processing.

To me, this means having Auto Exposure Bracketing with at least three frames, across +/- 2EV. For the camera itself I want an optical or electronic viewfinder, a moderate zoom capability, and a lens with a f2.8, or so. Last, I want a form factor that will fit into a hipbelt pocket like a GG Large, or a ULA.

I have come up with one candidate – the Canon G11.

Any other suggestions?

Thanks.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/14/2009 21:42:24 MDT Print View

Ricoh GX200. I'd also consider the Panny GF1, which will deliver much better IQ at equal weight and similar bulk.

The Canon G series is looking dated at present.

Cheers,

Rick

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/14/2009 22:08:58 MDT Print View

Rick,
The GX200 is short on the auto exposure range.

The GF1 is long on dollars - $900, plus $249 for the rangefinder. I'll pass.

Thanks though.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/14/2009 22:18:58 MDT Print View

Ack! Just noticed your viewfinder requirement. The Canon G11 is maybe your only option.

The Panasonic LX3 will be able to do +-3EV (spread of 6) as soon they re-release the new software load (it was pulled due to bugs... expected back in the next few weeks). You can do an optional viewfinder provided you don't mind a bit of parallax and you mostly shoot at a common lens length. I tried this using some viewfinders from an old rangefinder. Was OK, but kinda hacky.

If you gave up the rangerfinder option I am pretty sure that when I played with the Powershot S90 it could be configured to do +-2EV (spread of 4).

If you don't mind the camera doing it for you (no post process hassle ... but also no control or raw option) the Ricoh CX1 can do a spread of 12EV in it's HDR mode. Ack!

The Panasonic GF1 with the 14-45 lens is what I am hoping to switch to. It will do an every wider spread but it's off the list because it won't fit into the hipbelt pocket and I guess above your exceptable pricepoint.


--mark

Edited by verber on 10/15/2009 10:55:05 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/14/2009 22:31:38 MDT Print View

Hi Greg,

I'm sorry, I don't know what you mean by auto-exposure range. Can you help me out?

Cheers,

Rick

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 07:39:36 MDT Print View

Rick,
High Dynamic Range processing uses multiple images spanning a wide range of exposure values - wider than a camera can capture at one time. But but taking say three shots at -2EV, 0, and +2, and then digitally combining them you can get some pretty impressive images. Auto Exposure Bracketing does this for you. You pick the EV steps and number of frames, and the camera (often on a tripod) does the rest.

The Ricoh only goes to +/- 1EV, which doesn't provide a sufficient range.

The Pany offers great latitude in both frame count and EV range.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 07:56:00 MDT Print View

Mark,
Thanks for the tip on the LX3. Foregoing a viewfinder would place it and the S90 into close contention. But 95% of my shooting is outside, and try as I may, I have a hard time with a 3" screen 10" away, in sunlight.

The GF1 is by far the best technically, but with the longer lens and the hotshoe viewfinder, I think something would break in backpacking mode.

I may have built my box to tight - but for me an integrated viewfinder, and compact size are crucial parts of the package.

But I'm still looking, and I'm not in a hurry.

Thanks

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 08:07:22 MDT Print View

Greg, advice for a camera dunce please.

I have a canon S2IS. I really like the big zoom for catching birds on the wing and framing distant landscapes. I'm thinking of upgrading to the S5IS for the hot shoe plate and the greater resolution. I know the S5IS will do auto bracket exposure, but are those stored as separate images or combined by DIGIC III onboard? Can the resulting single image be post processed by HDR software? Or do you need the separate images.

Thanks

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 08:27:11 MDT Print View

Rog,
I'm a noob at this, learning as I go, so filter accordingly...

"...but are those stored as separate images or combined by DIGIC III onboard?"

Most cameras in Auto Exposure Bracketing take 3 or more separate frames at the designated EVs. One of the Ricohs actually combines the images on-board for you. I prefer the first approach. The most straight forward way to determine what the S5IS does is to RTFM. Look for AEB, Exposure Bracketing, HD... I've read 100's of pages of downloaded User Manuals to see who does what.

[edit: Rog, I see "Exposure Bracketing +/- 2 in the DPReview specs so I think you're good. But read...]

The preferred method of post-processing for HDR is to use separate images. Some packages will take a single RAW, shift it each way, creating 3 images, and then combine, but the result is never as good.

"...catching birds [on the wing]..."
AEB requires pretty close registration to merge the images. A tripod is recommended, although many are able to handhold and get close enough. I don't think you will succeed panning a moving object.

Edited by greg23 on 10/15/2009 08:44:17 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Re: Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 09:17:58 MDT Print View

> I may have built my box to tight

It's not too tight if the G11 meets your all your criteria. If the OVF on the G10 (or the G11 better yet) had been useful to me (it's just too small) I might have considered it instead of the LX3.

The LX3 is better than most of the other cameras I have tried in sunlight... but there are still situations where I feel like I am shooting blind and wish for a real viewfinder.

Alas, there is a trend away from integrated viewfinder on the smaller camera which I don't see stopping. Hopefully the success of some of the photographer oriented small cameras will produce more options.

My solution in these cases to to pay the weight and size penalty and bring a Panasonic G1.

--Mark

Edited by verber on 10/15/2009 09:19:12 MDT.

Joseph Reeves
(Umnak)

Locale: Southeast Alaska
LX3 "Cheek and Nose Rules" on 10/15/2009 10:02:26 MDT Print View

I've commented on the use of the LX3 without the LCD in the past, but thought that it might be of some help in this discussion. Using trial and error as a guide, I've learned how close to put the camera to my cheek or nose (depending on what "zoom" level it is at) for a particular shot. It works, and it saves on battery life. I originally purchased an aftermarket optical viewfinder, but found that the cheek or nose rule worked just as well and weighed less! Most of the photographs I take are with the LCD off. Here's one from last night, set with the camera against my nose. Weird but it works. BTW, I downloaded the high dynamic range firmware before it was pulled and have had no problems with the camera. This photograph did not use HDR.

Wetlands

Edited by Umnak on 10/15/2009 10:24:34 MDT.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: LX3 "Cheek and Nose Rules" on 10/15/2009 10:08:20 MDT Print View

Can you explain this more. I have trouble understanding what you are suggestion.

--Mark

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: LX3 "Cheek and Nose Rules" on 10/15/2009 10:08:39 MDT Print View

Joseph,
I agree that it can be done. But for me another advantage of an integrated viewfinder is being able to press the camera to my face to minimize camera shake. Even with Image Stabilization if find the steadier I am the lower I can go in terms of low light shooting.

I'm jealous that you can make it work. Maybe someday...

Thanks for your perspective.

Joseph Reeves
(Umnak)

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Further explanation on 10/15/2009 10:17:21 MDT Print View

Mark and Greg,

I hold the camera against my face, either to my cheek with my right eye looking over the non-existent viewfinder, or out against the end of my nose. This stabilizes the camera and gives me a decent indication of the area being photographed. I can fix any problems with post processing.
I noticed that in the review of the GF-1 posted yesterday on dpreview.com the LX3 was used in the comparison photographs in both jpeg and RAW. Says a lot about the camera.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Further explanation on 10/15/2009 10:22:16 MDT Print View

Joseph,
I'm on my way out the door for our "four hour loop". I'll give it an honest try.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 10:44:51 MDT Print View

Hi Greg,

Thanks for the followup. I use slightly different terms--exposure compensation range and auto-bracket range. The latter might be too limiting anymore, since we now also have auto white balance bracketing, ISO bracketing, aspect ratio bracketing, focus bracketing, etc.... I couldn't find the GX200 auto bracket range spec but saw that it does offer their plug in EVF, copied by the GF1. It's of course far smaller and lighter than the G-series and has the desirable 24mm lens.

A problem with the Canon G-series OVFs is that they're woefully inaccurate. I believe they do have focus confirmation though, which gives an advantage over hotshoe OVFs.

Cheers,

Rick

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Further explanation on 10/15/2009 14:16:20 MDT Print View

Joseph,
Thanks for making me pay attention.

When I compose a shot I'm paying looking for the 'Rule of Thirds'. I look at where the horizon line is. I use natural features to frame images. I find foreground items to provide scale and perspective. I look at the lighting and then relocate my meter to get lighter or darker exposures - on the fly exposure compensation. I arrange my light and dark masses to suit my eye.

So I am definitely a composer versus a point-and-shoot guy. I just never realized to what degree. And I greatly admire your ability to capture those wonderful images 'shooting from the hip(nose)'.

Rick,
I believe the G11 shows only 70% of the capture area. Considering what I wrote above, it remains to be seen if that is sufficient. If not,I'll be following in Mark's footsteps.

Thanks all for your suggestions and comments.

Roger Homrich
(rogerhomrich)

Locale: California/Michigan
RE: Compact 'High Dynamic Range' Camera? on 10/15/2009 14:18:23 MDT Print View

I too have a horrible time seeing an LCD screen out of doors. I also prefer to be ‘inside’ the image when composing, without the peripheral brightness and distractions found with looking at an LCD from a distance. This leaves me preferring a large optical viewfinder…

…But, here is my incredibly simple solution that I’m sure you’ve done with a jacket from time to time… just to throw it out there… try using a dark cloth over your head and camera (ala, Edward Weston).

This isn’t convenient for ‘run n gun’ and candid work, but if you are taking the time to set the camera on a tripod and are making multiple exposures of an HDR scene… than it’s probably a scene worth seeing well. (On a recent camera-testing trip… it would not have been uncommon to see me in the backcountry with black wool base layer (usually a sleeve) over my head and a camera (and tripod) at the other end. It’s a multi-use item!) Down sweaters, fleece, dark rain gear works too.

I agree with Mark that the size of the viewfinder in the G10 (and most compacts) is quite small and also with Rick that they are VERY inaccurate. They often border on useless.

If the size/price of the GF1 doesn’t work… than maybe it’s the LX3 & dark cloth combo (use only when precision framing is needed). Or it’s the compact G10/11 with its rough little finder… either way it’s a compromise.

I’d choose the one that you think would allow you to take the most photographs, given your shooting style. A smaller camera means it will fit in the pocket for quick and frequent access, but this is at the expense of a quality viewing system. Live view is a descent compromise, but it’s harder to see in sunlight and takes you out of the image. An SLR solves that, but it wont fit in the pocket… it’s a vicious circle.

I have also cut and tapped black trash bag to the back my 4x5 to use in place of a full dark cloth (the size/weight of a beach towel!). It’s lightweight, just leave yourself room to breathe!

‘Eye-balling’ the shot like Joseph suggests can be done with varying results. It is a common technique used by experienced rangefinder photographers who don’t wish to carry, purchase, or have the time for an external viewfinder with extreme focal lengths. Though, it’s much easier when the camera is ‘locked off’… unless you are also a Jedi. Joseph???

Good luck.

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
Canon g9 through the view finder on 10/15/2009 14:39:49 MDT Print View

alan oberlanderAlan Oberlander


I have yet to have a problem with the viewfinder. If you take the time to learn how it works they are great.

Edited by barefootnavigator on 10/15/2009 14:42:27 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Further explanation on 10/15/2009 17:53:53 MDT Print View

Hi Greg,

I can only recommend chasing one down for a firsthand demo. Everybody will respond to the finder differently; I find it pretty woeful--better than nothing but only just.

Here's dpr's take:

"The size of the viewfinder is the same as in the G9, but the markings have been removed. It is still nowhere near 100% (77%), which combined with the tunnel effect makes this almost unusable (for taking pictures). What's worse is that every time you place your eye to the viewfinder, you smudge the LCD more. Is this better than no optical viewfinder at all? At least it is still possible to make believe this is a rangefinder."

I'm thinking of ordering one of these gizmos to try on the LX3. Not elegant but simple and cheap, and may even shade the screen when shooting horizontally.

http://www.clearviewer.com/hotshoe.html

I use a hotshoe finder occasionally, and it can certainly help in some settings. It rides in a bag clipped to the camera strap or case when not in use. One of the saving tricks of all compact digicams is the focus confirmation beep. When you're shooting blind (which can also mean high overhead or at ground level) it's all you have.

cheers,

Rick