35mm hybrid workflow vs dslr

Discussion in 'Digital Darkroom' started by marco_landini, Jun 29, 2011.

  1. Hi. After 5 years of slide shooting, I shifted to digital ( nikon D90) a couple of years ago, concentrating myself to digital workflow, from raw capture to final ps editing. I' ve tried to develop a correct and consistent digital workflow. Now, I have to say I'm not very satisfied by my results, I find the prints look not natural, I don' t like the feeling of my prints, I found the subject, the foreground and background don't melt in a natural way, something as a photomontage. The edges look something strong and harsh, un-natural sharp outlines as pencil delineated. In general, I find my digital pictures lack depth of scene and look flat and not natural. Maybe, this is due to a wrong editing, but I try to do the right moves. I' m very conservative with sharpening, and I try to add more depth enanching contrast curves, as I like the look of film, expecialy slides. Anyway, as careful in photoediting as I can, I find my results unnatural and lacking the feeling and depth of film. I don't know if this is because of my poor experience with photoediting or is an inevitable caracteristic of digital sensor of my dslr. So, I would try the hybrid workflow, sending my 35mm slides to a lab to be scanned, then editing them on ps only adding the capture sharpening and no other editing. In this way, I shoud minimize the editing and the digital intervention. Now, I would ask you suggestion about this workflow and scanning. The lab has a nikon coolscan 5000 ed scanner and an imacon 848. The price of imacon scans is 10 times more than coolscan ones, at the same MB dimension of the files. So, I' m intended to have nikon scans for my general images, and imacon scans for those few very important pictures to be printed. Now, I ask you if the great quality of imacon scans justifies the 10 times more price. And I ask you how many dpi ( 4000 ? ) you suggest me to have a 35mm slide scanned and how many MB are needed to have a 12x16 print at 254 ppi printer. Thank you
     
  2. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I don't know why you should like your digital work less than your slides, though of course your crop sensor dslr will provide greater dof for any particular composition and this might be contiributing to a sensation of flatness. Equally your dslr will offer a rather better dynamic range than slide films and if you've grown to like strong shadow areas in particular you'll get less of that with a dslr. But there has to be a chance that your photoshop editing is contributing too. I assume that you have a calibrated monitor?
    I used a hybrid workflow for nearly ten years after presenting my then clients with their work printed as Type R analogue prints vs drum scans from the same originals printed on Lightjets. They each voted easily for the hybrids, even though they were notably more expensive-quality scanning and filemaking were much more expensive then than now. But the point here is that you will be very lucky indeed to get scans that you can print from without some editing, and indeed I might well rather make adjustments in photoshop rather than in scanning software. That means that some of the same factors in file editing that may be behind your current perceptions may arise again. If I were you I'd get a print or two made by a "top of market" lab that will make a drum scan, a great file and exemplary print for you. That will tell you two things- first whether you like the hybrid process if you do it as well as it can be done, and secondly to provide you with a target for your efforts. I'd suggest West Coast Imaging www.westcoastimaging.com could do this for you.
    Onto your specifics on scanning etc
    • There is no way that an Imacon scan is worth 10x a 4000ppi scan on a Coolscan. Most labs that offer both have a much smaller differential I think and indeed I pay £7 GBP for 16 bit 150MB scans of my medium format slides from an Imacon. Given that I only do this for images that I know are going into stock agencies or to make prints, that doesn't seem too bad to me. In short, different labs charge different prices, and whilst I'd rather have an Imacon scan, the Coolscan will certainly suffice for the print size you mention.
    • Get the slides scanned at max ppi, 16 bit. You might want to make slightly bigger prints later, and the 16 bit is better when you need to edit. At 4000 ppi hat should provide you with a 128MB file or 64MB when you've converted to 8 bit after editing.
    • A 16" x 12" print at 254 ppi requires a 37MB file. IMO there is little cost advantage from getting scans exactly that size.
     
  3. I use in my digital workflow to add a bit of capture sharpening by focus magic plugin, almost always at 3, no higher. It works very well to get the image in focus after the anti-aliasing filter of d90. On screen, the image looks nice, on print I can see the edges and outilines too strong. Maybe the issue is because of my uncorrect use of the sharpening. Maybe, it' s only matter of my taste. The new digital works of McCurry are of course edited in a perfect way by great graphic artists, and anyway I prefere the slide era works of him, where the images came from hybrid workflow with the same strong editing as his current all digital workflow. The only difference is the previous works started from slide capture, and I love that result much more than new works.
     
  4. "I found the subject, the foreground and background don't melt in a natural way, something as a photomontage. The edges look something strong and harsh, un-natural sharp outlines as pencil delineated. In general, I find my digital pictures lack depth of scene and look flat and not natural."
    You're not the only one. I noticed this about 6 years ago as I watched a colleague's projected travel presentation--subjects always looked as if they were pasted onto a background. It's not clear to me what exactly causes this. Perhaps it's simply that the greater field depth causes the entire subject to be sharp even with a blurry background, as opposed to a 35mm or MF shot where the farthest edges of a subject may be just out of focus enough to look natural. In other words, lack of a natural focus fall-off.
    I have fairly large (13x19) prints from Kodachrome 64 made from Coolscan files done by digmypics.com which are extremely sharp (they do not do 16bit files, BTW). My own opinion is that in order for it to be worth having scans made on an Imacon, you would have to have technically superior images to start with or it would be a waste of money: great lens, finest-grained film, tripod, mirror up, optimum F-stop, etc.
     
  5. @Scott : Perhaps it's simply that the greater field depth causes the entire subject to be sharp even with a blurry background, as opposed to a 35mm or MF shot where the farthest edges of a subject may be just out of focus enough to look natural. In other words, lack of a natural focus fall-off.
    Do you think full frame camera could be the solution, with its narrow depth of field ?
    Anyway, at the cost of the investement for a full frame dslr, I could have several slide scans...
     
  6. Marco L: "... I use in my digital workflow to add a bit of capture sharpening by focus magic plugin, almost always at 3, no higher. ..."
    Wow! I also use Focus Magic, and never once used it higher than a setting of "1" on intake sharpening on my d700, and formerly, my d200. If the picture is OOF and I really can't re-shoot it, at the middle / "artistic" sharpening phase, I will go higher in selected areas of the image.
    However, since the advent of LR 3, I do all my intake and output sharpening in LR, and only use Focus Magic for mid-phase / artistic sharpening, if needed.
    Tom M
     
  7. marco,
    Your cheapest and most efficient solution is to find a local pro retoucher who can work through your digital workflow and software and show you how to get the results you are looking for. Around $200 for a morning of 1:1 tuition/instruction/help will save you thousands in scans, besides the scans are nowhere near as good as the film they are on.
     
  8. @ Tom : so, you suggest me to use focus magic plugin at 1, for capture sharpening to my d90's nef's ? And use focus magic at 3 only to interest areas as a creative sharpening ? This , in you opinion, will ensure me to avoid too harsh unnatural edges and outlines, so to have a natural look without any flatness ? In my opinion it' s not only a matter of focus decay due to a uge depth of field of aps format. In my opinion it' s about synthetic medium , the digital sensor capture. As a pizza coocken in a traditional woodfire oven tastes much more exiting than a pizza coocken in a microwave.
     
  9. The difference in DOF between 35mm film and APS-C Digital is not "that" great. From what you describe it sounds more like you are over sharpening your digital files. Learn how to use the tools properly and you will not have that problem.
     
  10. The Kasbah image is way over sharpened. To me it also looks like a poor job of HDR.
     
  11. The kashbah image is a cheap flatbed scan from 35mm velvia. The train image is taken by d90, ps edited
     
  12. This picture was taken at night. D90 at 1600 iso. Because of the hi iso and the consequent noise and narrow dynamic range, I did no corrections or editing on it. I must say, to me this picture looks more natural and film-like, much more than the pictures taken at 200 iso, that allow me to do a lot of ps editing on which I actually did, evidently in a wrong way.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marco_landini/4887940349/in/photostream
     
  13. Personally for me based on your two samples the train shot looks better. However if you prefer film then shoot film. I like to shoot B&W film but I don't shoot much color film at all and usually use digital for color shots. Here are a couple of color shots one film one digital.
    00Yy8m-374629584.jpg
     
  14. and now digital..
    00Yy8p-374631584.jpg
     
  15. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I also prefer the train to the casbah shot. You say the latter is a cheap flatbed scan. But is it a scan or is it an edited file that started off as a scan? Clearly its been over-sharpened somewhere.
     
  16. david_henderson

    david_henderson www.photography001.com

    I also prefer the train to the casbah shot. You say the latter is a cheap flatbed scan. But is it a scan or is it an edited file that started off as a scan? Clearly its been over-sharpened somewhere.
     
  17. Marco L: "... Tom: so, you suggest me to use focus magic plugin at 1, for capture sharpening to my d90's nef's ? And use focus magic at 3 only to interest areas as a creative sharpening ? This , in you opinion, will ensure me to avoid too harsh unnatural edges and outlines, so to have a natural look without any flatness ? ..."
    It will help. While going down to +1 in Focus Magic won't cure all problems, in my experience, +3 is just too high for general intake sharpening and is almost guaranteed to cause problems later in your workflow.
    Tom M
     
  18. I am always driven puzzled by such comparisons. All images posted at photo.net (or on the Internet, for that matter) are digital or at least "digitized" images. So, how is any comparison or discussion between slides and .jpegs going to be fair--let alone an impartial verdict?
    Paul
     
  19. The kashbah image is a cheap flatbed scan from 35mm velvia. The train image is taken by d90, ps edited
    LOL! The over sharpening in the Kashbah image had me convinced that it was the digital one. Sorry, the train image is better. The Kashbah image is over sharpened, which is typically the problem when people complain that foreground and background don't melt together, or that their subject looks like it was cut and pasted onto the background. Yet you say that's the film scan? My guess is that workflow, particularly sharpening, is still your problem on the digital side. The comments that DoF is the issue are off base IMHO as the difference is simply not that great between 35mm and APS-C. It's something in your workflow, though the train image looks fine to me.
     
  20. marco - regarding the second pair, neither looks unnatural. The Velvia shot has more pleasing contrast but the color balance is off. The D90 shot is somewhat flat in terms of color and contrast, but that's primarily a lighting issue. Post processing could help. Velvia 50 can be magic under shaded or subdued lighting. Direct, harsh sunlight requires careful choices with digital or film IMHO.
    You really should try shooting both side-by-side for a while so that you have comparisons under identical conditions. Literally carry both cameras and if you shoot a scene on one, shoot it with the other right away and match the settings as closely as possible. This will reveal a lot to you and help you better understand what you like and don't like and how to achieve what you like digitally.
     
  21. jtk

    jtk

    "Natural" is a non-concept.
     
  22. slide scan, do you think is oversharpened ? http://www.flickr.com/photos/marco_landini/3046334149/in/photostream
    D90 http://www.flickr.com/photos/marco_landini/4888606032/in/photostream
    @Daniel : I wish to improve my workflow, in a conservative way, just adding to the raw only the basic correction in tone curve and contrast and a bit of sharpening. In this discussion is evident that my great difficulty is sharpening. I just want to give the right sharpness after the anti-aliasing filter intervention of my D90, and a final output sharpening. I use focus magic at 3 for capture sharpening, but It seems to be too much, maybe 1 is better. I' ve tryed also photokit sharpener either for capture sharpening and output sharpening. It seems my settings of the 2 sharpening plug-ins are wrong. Do you suggest me some settings to keep my images sharp and crisp but not oversharpened ? I like to add some hi radius low amount usm, to add some mid-tonal contrast and clarity, at amount 20, radius 50. I like it.
     
  23. Marco, I like the train image very much.
    For sharpening, I learned a LOT from Bruce Fraser Real World Sharpening with Photoshop CS2. Bruce has died; I think this book is still the best reference and is still fully relevant. He covers specifically the need for capture sharpening on both scan from film and digital sensor. A key point for me: scanned film needs noise reduction before you can do sharpening.
    Also, scans do need some sharpening at capture.
    Back to the images, I like the train very much, but you are the only one to know what look you want. The question is how to achieve your aim. There's no "right" or "best" way to render an image.
    Stuart, I'm quite impressed that your film and digital images have, to me, the same feel. You've obviously learned to control both.
     
  24. Since it's almost mandatory to sharpen after downsizing (eg, for posting on photo.net), one can run into trouble (eg, halos, stair-stepping, aliasing, etc.) if you sharpen too much before downsizing. The reason is that the initial sharpening can introduce spatial frequencies above the Nyquist frequency allowed by the subsequent downrezing step.
    The trick is to be conservative in sharpening before downsizing, but tweak the final sharpening step.
    HTH,
    Tom M
     
  25. marco - in the third pair the D90 shot fairs better because of better light. The Velvia shot still suffers from the color balance issue, and I would pick the color/contrast of the D90 in this case. (Again though, different scenes under different light. Try shooting same scene on both for a while.)
    Neither is obviously over sharpened for the screen size.
    Do you suggest me some settings to keep my images sharp and crisp but not oversharpened ? I like to add some hi radius low amount usm, to add some mid-tonal contrast and clarity, at amount 20, radius 50. I like it.
    That's known as local contrast enhancement, and I do the same. I use Smart Sharpen (PS CS4) for detail sharpening, usually a radius of 0.5-1px and an amount somewhere between 50% and 100%.
    The important thing is that optimum sharpening varies from image to image. On some images I've actually done two Smart Sharpen passes, one at 1px and one at 0.5. On others, I barely touch the image with 0.5px and a very low amount. It all depends on subject, light, lens, previous post processing, and target print size.
    Do you have an example pair where you prefer the film sample? Or did you prefer the film sample in all 3 cases here? So far only the first film scan was obviously over sharpened. Perhaps sharpening is not what's turning you off. What don't you like about any of the D90 shots here?
     
  26. Personally, I liked the Velvia sunset shot a lot better. Better/warmer colors. At first, I actually thought it was digital, due to the lightened foreground (usually slide w/o a split ND filter will set this very dark). The train image colors turned me off, it reminded me of Ektar 100, with its cold harsh tones. (but it does FANTASTIC sunsets - the only neg film that can compete with slide in this arena). I thought that was the film shot !
    Anyways, if you like film results, why not just shoot film? Yoou can still uase your digital for times when it isnt worth the money/time cost shooting film. The Coolscan 5000 scans will be fine, or if you are in the US, simply send to NCPS to have dev and scanned for under $20/ roll. The scanner they use is a $45,000 Kodak Professional scanner designed for scanning pros shots for huge enlargements back in thefilm days. See Ken rockwells site for some scan examples.
    Shoot some RealRaw shots and be happy;-).
     
  27. I do similar Marco. But i use both workflows. I like results better in most cases in film but i don't dislike digital either. I
    find with digital the more processing done incamera,the better. Actually film is the same. Also i agree that the casbah
    shot is over sharpened. You can see a prominant halo at the sky line.
     
  28. I love this picture. Taken by d90, 50 1.8 af-d. In capture nx2 I left the same sharpness value as was set in camera (+4), and no sharpening in ps. I know the best way is to set to 0 the sharpenss in raw conversion, ad add shapness only in the final stages of editing in photoshop ( capture and output sharpening). But I have to say I like this result, with on camera shapening on and kept on in raw to tiff conversion.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/marco_landini/4251144964/in/photostream
     
  29. Hi again, Marco - You photo of the cement / gravel / coal plant is indeed very nice. If you look carefully on a good monitor at close distances, it's easy to see that there is a prominent white halo that surrounds almost every dark line that has the sky for it's background. However, if the monitor isn't quite so good, the monitor is connected to the PC with a low quality analog/VGA cable (ie, with signal reflections because of termination problems), if the viewer is a bit further away, etc. I doubt many ordinary viewers (ie, not us pixel peepers) would even notice the white halos, let alone say they're objectionable. They would probably simply say, "Oooh, what a nice sharp picture!"
    IMHO, there is a time and place for taking exquisite care with the preparation of an image, and posting a 700 pixel mini-image in a discussion forum usually isn't one of them. I've posted plenty of oversharpened images to "No Words" simply because I'm lazy, wanted to post something, didn't want to take the time to tweak each and every image I post, and because my personal preference is that I'd rather err on the side of a bit of over-sharpening rather than having people think my shot was OOF.
    OTOH, photo.net can be a good place to hone your skills in preparation for more serious presentation of your work. So, taken with that in mind, if you would like someone else to show you what their idea of optimal sharpening is, why don't you make the RAW file for the industrial image available. You can then compare your idea of optimal sharpening to their best shot at it, albeit both will be for 700 px wide monitor output, ie, in this thread.
    Tom M
     

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