Dynamic range

Discussion in 'UK Photography' started by Paul Giverin, Dec 31, 2008.

  1. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    How does the dynamic range of 35mm film compare with the dynamic range
    of a sensor from a mid range crop DSLR, i.e Canon 40D, Nikon D300 etc?
    Does the dynamic range of film vary with manufacturer, type, speed?

    Just wondering.

    Paul Giverin

    British Jet Engine Website:- www.britjet.co.uk

    My photos:- www.pbase.com/vendee
    Paul Giverin, Dec 31, 2008
    1. Advertisements

  2. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    Early DSLRs had a dynamic range that was much worse than slide film,
    with highlights burning out and shadows filling in. But there has been
    a significant improvement over the last few years, with the best DSLRs
    offering a dynamic range that beats slide film, and even equals cheap
    colour negative film.

    However, there still isn't a DSLR made whose dynamic range can equal low
    contrast professional colour negative films such as Kodak Portra 160 and
    Fujicolor NPS 160, and they are probably years away from equalling low
    contrast black and white films, if indeed they ever manage it.

    Hugely. Black and white film has the greatest dynamic range, colour
    slide the least. Colour negative is somewhere in between.

    The faster the film, the less dynamic range. One area where DSLRs
    really score is in their excellent performance at high ISO settings.

    The better "crop" DSLRs for dynamic range include the FujiFilm Finepix
    S5, based on a Nikon body (discontinued but still available), the Nikon
    D300 and the Canon EOS 40D (soon to be discontinued?). All of these
    have 12 MP sensors.
    Bruce, Jan 1, 2009
    1. Advertisements

  3. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    Thanks to Trev and Bruce for the explanation. It was really interesting
    to learn that b&w film has such a good range. It probably explains why
    there is so much detail in b&w film prints.

    I got a couple of nice books for xmas. The first one, Don McCullin by
    Don McCullin is all b&w plates. The second, "Magnum Magnum" (a monster
    sized book) has at least half of the plates in b&w.

    I was never really into photography prior to the digital age. I did have
    a Pentax K1000 (won it in a raffle) but didn't make best use of it. I'm
    half tempted to pick up something like a ME super from ebay and have a
    try at shooting b&w.


    Paul Giverin

    British Jet Engine Website:- www.britjet.co.uk

    My photos:- www.pbase.com/vendee
    Paul Giverin, Jan 2, 2009
  4. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    It was only recently that I first heard the expression "f/8 and be
    there" ;)

    Paul Giverin

    British Jet Engine Website:- www.britjet.co.uk

    My photos:- www.pbase.com/vendee
    Paul Giverin, Jan 2, 2009
  5. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    You're very welcome, Paul.

    I shoot mostly digital now but I have a real soft spot for black + white
    film. I would recommend that you try one of the C41-process black and
    white films. The C41 process is the one used for colour negative films,
    meaning that you can get your black and white film processed at a
    minilab almost anywhere on a 1 hour service.

    I use my local ASDA Wal-Mart because it is convenient, cheap and the
    minilab operators are well trained. The print quality is very good
    indeed. Most labs let you choose between black and white prints, which
    sometimes have a very slight colour cast, or sepia which gives a
    deliberate brown colour cast for a period effect. You can also have the
    negatives scanned to a CD for a nominal extra charge.

    There are two C41 films available, Ilford XP2 Super (also sold as a Fuji
    product) and Kodak BW400CN. They are very similar ISO400 films with
    superb tonal rendition and fine grain. They can both be exposed
    anywhere between ISO100 and 1000 giving excellent results.

    I used XP2 and XP2 Super for many years, but changed to Kodak BW400CN a
    couple of years ago because I prefer its combination of fine grain and
    tonal qualities. It has slightly higher contrast than XP2, which means
    that XP2 has a slight advantage on dynamic range.

    You can still buy traditional black and white film. Many enthusiasts
    prefer it, but processing costs are higher unless you do it at home.

    The ME Super is a good choice as it gives access to a huge range of high
    quality Pentax lenses (plus other brands in Pentax K mount) which are
    available at surprisingly low prices. The Pentax 50mm f/1.7 lens is
    available for next to nothing yet its optics are hard to beat at any

    If you decide to go with an ME Super I have a 135mm f/3.5 Pentax lens
    which I could let you have for the cost of postage.
    Bruce, Jan 2, 2009
  6. Paul Giverin

    Geoff Berrow Guest

    In the summer they probably would be.

    When I used to do some wedding photography for a chap I wasn't
    restricted like that but I was given three rolls of film (120) and
    expected to return 34 useable shots. And I usually used to do it too.

    Yes, I like the freedom to take as many shots as I like with digital but
    having a restriction really makes one concentrate!
    Geoff Berrow, Jan 3, 2009
  7. Whilst the dynamic range of dSLRs does not equal black and white negatives
    or some colour negatives (some it does) it certainly beats print paper which
    always reduces the dynamic range of the whole process anyway. My monitor
    has a range of 10 stops so it is better at reproducing dynamic range than a
    print is these days funnily enough.

    Roger Blackwell, Jan 3, 2009
  8. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    No wedding photographer worth his salt would use Pan F in 120 format.
    With a negative that large, there would be no need for such a fine
    grained film, and the ASA (ISO) 50 speed would be too restrictive.

    More likely, it would be Ilford FP4 (or FP3 in those days) which has a
    nominal ASA (ISO) speed of 125.

    In which case, 1/125 sec at f/8 would have been two stops more exposure
    than the "Sunny f/16" rule. That would be about right to optimise the
    number of printable results on the day.

    The timing of this thread interests me; today I shot a wedding using
    Ilford FP4 in three Rolleiflex TLRs, one each of the wide angle,
    standard and telephoto varieties. It is part of a service that offers
    retro weddings; the bridal car today was a Vanden Plas 4 litre R with a
    Rolls-Royce engine. The groom arrived in an Aston Martin DB4.

    Sheer pleasure, even though the sun didn't make an appearance!

    I will be busy in the darkroom for a couple of days ...
    Bruce, Jan 3, 2009
  9. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    Most of the Canon FD lenses were optically rather better than their
    immediate EF successors, and were far better made. The FD 50mm f/1.8
    was an excellent lens, on a par with the Pentax 50mm f/1.7. FD lenses
    are mostly even cheaper than Pentax lenses because they won't fit any
    Canon digital SLRs without an adapter that includes an extra lens
    element that destroys their image quality.

    All Pentax lenses, whether M42 or K bayonet, will fit Pentax DSLRs - you
    just need the inexpensive M42 to K bayonet adapter for screw lenses.
    They will also fit Canon EOS DSLRs with an adaptor costing around £20 on
    eBay. I have a couple of K mount lenses that I use on my Canon EOS 5D.

    So I think there is a powerful reason for choosing Pentax lenses, if you
    are ever likely to want to own a DSLR.
    Bruce, Jan 4, 2009
  10. Paul Giverin

    Paul Giverin Guest

    Cheers, that's what I wanted to know.
    Yeah, I know about that. A few people persevere with the FD-EF
    conversion but it doesn't seem worth the hassle unless you can pick up a
    cheap FD 50 f1.2 and machine the mount to fit.
    I'd love a 5D. I'd love a 5Dmk2 but it isn't going to happen for a
    while. You say you can use K mount lenses on your 5D. Any reason why you
    would? I assume you have to focus and meter manually? What Canon lenses
    do you use with the 5D?
    Too late for me. I've already got a lot tied up in EF lenses.

    Paul Giverin

    British Jet Engine Website:- www.britjet.co.uk

    My photos:- www.pbase.com/vendee
    Paul Giverin, Jan 4, 2009
  11. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    You're welcome.

    I have two K mount lenses with adapters, an SMC Pentax-A 35-105mm f/3.5
    zoom and a Kiron 28-210mm f/3.5. Both have optical qualities that I
    particularly like.

    I also have 20mm, 25mm, 28mm. 35mm, 50mm, 85mm and 180mm Carl Zeiss
    lenses with adapters, a Leica (Schneider) Super-Angulon 28mm shift lens
    and several Nikon lenses because I am in the process of changing to
    Nikon DSLRs. I have been using a D700 for nearly two months and am
    very, very impressed with it. In the interim, I have a couple of Nikon
    to Canon EF adapters because my daily outfit consists of two 5D bodies.

    Yes, I have no problem with that. I had special focusing screens
    fitted. Except for sports, which I don't do, autofocus is highly
    over-rated, especially Canon's.

    A 24mm f/3.5 TS-E tilt and shift lens, a 24-105mm EF L and a 70-200mm
    f/2.8 EF L IS. I have had several other Canon lenses, it's just that I
    didn't particularly like their optical characteristics. I had a cheap
    24-85mm EF USM zoom that I liked a lot. It was optically very good,
    especially for the price, but it wasn't designed for professional use
    and fell apart. I bought a replacement but have hardly used it.
    Bruce, Jan 4, 2009
  12. Paul Giverin

    Marty Fremen Guest

    IMHO you'd be better off getting the manual model, the Pentax MX. I had an
    ME Super and the supposed "centre-weighted" metering was almost
    indistinguishable from simple averaging, making it useless in auto mode:
    the presence of ~1/3 sky in a picture would cause it to underexpose far too
    much when using slide film. After the first roll of film I used it in
    manual mode (since there's no AE lock, so you can't meter off the ground
    and recompose except by switching to manual). The MX is better for manual
    use since it has a proper shutter speed dial instead of buttons, and is
    also slightly smaller than the ME Super.

    In the end I bought a Ricoh XRX body to replace it, simply because the
    Ricoh had an AE lock and a semi-spot metering option (there being no Pentax
    bodies with spot metering at the time.) The Ricoh was big and clunky
    unfortunately but at least it had decent metering.

    When I bought the ME Super it was a toss up between that and the Olympus
    OM10 which had similar price and features and equally good lenses. With
    hindsight I backed the wrong horse, since Olympus later brought out the
    OM2SP and OM4 with multi-spot metering whereas Pentax never did produce a
    35mm body with better metering than simple averaging.
    Marty Fremen, Jan 4, 2009
  13. Paul Giverin

    Bruce Guest

    The MX is still in quite strong demand and will cost several times the
    price of an ME Super.
    Bruce, Jan 5, 2009
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.