Noise

ronschi

New Member
Larry excuse me if I'm missing something I have just come in in response to the mention of the CP8400. Unsure if you meant 8400 or 8700. If its the former where can I find info about it? If it's the latter I have this camera and am VERY, VERY disapointed in it. I think Nikon should be ashamed of themselves putting their name to it. I have had an earlier coolpix which was great for what it was an early digital prosumer but the 8700 purports to be more and it really isn't. I had read a warning about noise but somehow my belief in Nikon overode the review. Now I know I have to change my view of Nikon. The 8700 just isn't worth buying in my opinion the noise is ridiculous in anything other than perfect conditions. I would have payed more for a digital slr but I really need to have the little swing out viewing screen of the prosumer cameras. I guess the view is that slrs are for out and out professionals with a capital P and that most professionals wouldn't be seen dead using such a thing. I guess too that there is some technical reason why the slrs don't use these screens but surely it's possible to provide a swing out screen and good quality!

Ron Cavedaschi
 

lnbolch

Well-Known Member
Ron Cavedaschi (Ronschi) wrote:
Unsure if you meant 8400 or 8700. If its the former where can I find info about it?
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A number of new Nikons were announced yesterday.

Having spent more than a dozen years as a sports shooter where an ISO400 film is considered a slow, fine-grain film, I am not much disturbed by noise. Now, much of my shooting is in low ambient light and involves people in action, so the camera remains on ISO800 for long periods of time, often set to -1.0EV in order to push to ISO1600.

I would far rather a noisy, grainy image with content that is sharp and powerful than silky blurs where content in indecipherable. Certainly it would be lovely to have ISO3200 or ISO6400 without any noise or grain, but it will not be happening in cameras selling for less than $1,000US for several more years.

On the other hand, grain and noise can generally be simulated in image processing if they are a desired element in the image, so I have no great desire to hang onto them. I have created a Photoshop Action that allows me to considerably reduce the noise if so desired, without diminishing detail signfificantly. It is a total non-issue here.

For CP5000 at ISO1600, see "Vollyball"
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See also
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for profoundly grainy images. The latter of Willie was used by CBS records as a very large poster in record shops around the world for months. No one even mentioned the grain, though it was shot on ISO800 film.

Digital cameras have become so good in their few years of existence that reviewers are grasping at straws to find stuff to criticize. Noise is fairly easy to compare between cameras, so they have glommed onto that, turned it into an issue and people have picked up on it.

It is a natural part of photography and always has been. I just did a scanning job of some very slow medium format negatives from the 1950s and found an astoundingly high level of grain. Even at ISO800, a 2560 x 1920 digital image has no where near the noise of a same sized scan from one of these negatives.

Noise/grain is somewhat undesirable, but very much accepted by magazines, record companies, sports publications, or anyplace where action and low-light go together. My first magazine assignments were done with a CP990 @ ISO400 and ran full page in a big glossy Brit magazine. Noise levels were far more profound than with current cameras in general, plus the image size was only 3.34MP as opposed to 8MP here.

larry!
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ronschi

New Member
OK Larry I'm perfectly happy to accept that for you this not an issue but it seems unfair to label others who do find it an issue as people who have just picked up on something reviewers have glommed onto - whatever that is.

So for those that are bothered about silky smooth tones, the noise levels achieved by the cp 8700 are very bad indeed if this is similar in the 8400 better watch out. The max iso the 8700 allows is 400! Not a lot, I doubt if even Larry could work his magic at this level. Most reviewers seem to agree (me too) that anything above 50 iso is producing significant noise to anyone whose photography requires smooth tones. I am talking here about the cp 8700 not the cp 8400 maybe Nikon have bettered the noise in this model but check carefully before buying that it is going to provide the sort of quality you expect and don't rely on Nikon's reputation. See also my other gripes in the cp 8700 thread.

Ron Cavedaschi
 

lnbolch

Well-Known Member
I have owned the CP8400 now for just under two months and would like to share impressions with you all. My first digital was the CP990 followed by the CP5000 for the past three years. These form the foundation for any comparisons. I have posted a variety of images from my first shoots at
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Three years of time is nearly two generations in the world of digital technology and Gordon Moore's Law is vividly at work here. The camera starts quickly, focuses quickly and positively, saves images quickly and is far more responsive in every way compared to the past. It is a real pleasure in the field.

The lens is very sharp. I have all in camera sharpening turned off, as I did with the CP990 and CP5k, preferring to sharpen on an individual basis in Photoshop CS. I find that where I was using an amount of 500 with a radius of 0.25 on the Lightness channel nearly always, the amount has dropped to 200 to 350 in most cases with the CP8400. The super-wide WC-E75 if anything, has less barrel distortion than the venerable WC-E68. It is now possible to overlay a grid on the screen for easy alignment with verticals or the horizon – greatly appreciated with a lens so wide. Like the WC-E68, the existence of such a lens is more than adequate reason to own this camera.

It is the logical successor to the CP5k, being optimized for wide angle work. Though there is only the difference between 19mm and 18mm, the lens is noticeably wider.
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Without the WC-E75, the camera is still very useable, having and equivalent of a 24mm lens native. While limited for architectural interiors, it is quite nice as a walkin’ ‘round camera just as is.

As with the CP5k, the accessory battery pack improves handling immensely, lowering the centre of gravity and adding mass for easier holding at low shutter speeds. The grip has been redesigned for greater comfort and holding grip. Now it is just as comfortable to shoot vertical format shots as it is for horizontals.

Redesign shows up in most every aspect of the camera. Many of the functions that required paging through three pages of menus can now be accessed directly from a button or the Control Knob. Furthermore the first menu to come up when the button is pressed is a menu that the user can completely customize with the items most frequently needed. Obviously, the designers have learned a lot in the past three years..

With the CP5k, I used the combined selectable areas for both exposure and focus. The five have now been expanded to nine, and it feels like they have been somewhat narrowed. Even in extreme backlighting, I am getting perfect exposures with this method. Having cut my teeth on Ansel Adams’ books, having a live, real-time histogram is beyond dreams. Ansel would have killed for this.

I have see no evidence of the kind of highlight clipping that was common with the CP5k when shooting RAW. The current loader with Photoshop CS handles .nef files extremely well, allowing one to deal with extreme exposure conditions, area by area. The only reason for less than perfect exposures now is having the camera in the hands of a bone-head photographer. Tools just don’t get any better than this.

I have also found that getting perfect colour either in-camera JPEGs or RAW is a lot easier. The CP990 was great when shooting out-of-doors in clear sunlight, but otherwise never quite satisfactory, even when using a grey-card for on-site balancing and again in Photoshop. The CP5k was a vast improvement over the CP900 and now the CP8400 just delivers what I want. Interestingly at higher ISO settings, the noise looks very much like the grain of film, rather than the smears of colour with the CP5k. Both are easily controlled in Lab mode in Photoshop.

The buffer is both larger and empties much quicker than with the CP5k. Once the buffer is completely full, the camera becomes available on a shot by shot basis as the images are transferred to the card. It writes in the background. On high-speed continuous, one can shoot five images compared to the three with the CP5k – and these are 8MP as compared to 5MP images. On low speed continuous, the CP5k was good for about seven or eight shots with Fine JPEG. With the larger 8MP images it is up to around 14. This of course, can be extended by increasing the compression or decreasing the resolution. It would be a rare case now that one would miss a shot because the camera was busy writing.

At f-2.6, the lens is one of the faster among its peers. Overall sensitivity seems to have increased as well for low light shooting. The monitor on the CP5k goes black long before that of the CP8400 making available darkness shooting a pleasure. Of course noise reduction is there, but while shooting an eight second exposure with the CP990 looked like shooting through a swarm of psychedelic fireflies, and there were less – though still many – hot pixels with the CP5k, none are seen with the CP8400. In fact I have done a full minute test shot with none showing.

Not only does the CP8400 now have a fully 10 minutes of Bulb, it also has timed long exposures of 30 seconds, one, two, three, five and ten minutes. It also has an interval timer with the same settings. Using both, I expect to get some spectacular lightning pictures this summer, with minimal danger to myself. It was always a bit thrilling to have my hand on a metal tripod as the fury of the storm approached. Of course, the timer will also do stop motion of opening flowers and the like.

My 8x10 and letter-sized prints are every bit the equal of any 35mm prints I have ever made. It is the tail end of winter in Western Canada, and I have yet to shoot anything epic enough to warrant a 13x19. With 40% more pixels and the ED-glass lens, I expect some visible improvement over those from the CP5k.

All in all, I have yet to find anything not to like in comparison to the cameras that have gone before. It fits the way I work precisely as the CP5k did, and is a better camera in every way. Yeah, I would love to have a camera of the same design with an even wider f1.0 lens and a sensor large enough to shoot at ISO6400 with no noise. Some years down the road, it will probably happen.

For now, there is simply no camera on the market AT ANY PRICE for which I would trade. The camera is incredibly stealthy, allowing me to work within the subject’s private, personal space so I can get very intimate spontaneous portraits. For anyone who loves to work with extreme wide angles, it is the only game in town.

larry!
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zakk92001

Active Member
Larry! Thank you for a great review. You write about the 8400 with such passion, I feel that I should give it another try. A question: For those of us who are lazy or in a hurry, would you say that you could ge t jpegs good enough for publishing straight out of the camera (colours, sharpening and white-balance), given that I gather enough experience with i t to know its ins and outs?

The reason for asking is that I have looked at the Fuji S3 very much for that reason. It seems to be the only DSLR (Olympus E-1 being a possible exception) that gives "ready-to-use" jpegs straight from the box.

Unfortunately, the Fuji is rather expensive if I want a zoom lens comparabl e to the 8400, and for that money, I would rather buy an F6 (now we can start talking ergonomics!!!).

Jorgen
 

lnbolch

Well-Known Member
Hmm... this one message not show up in my mailbox back then. Late, but here goes.

While there may be a camera that is capable of generating ready-to-publish JPEGs right out of the camera, there probably are few photographers with the kind of skill and luck to pull it off, nor publishers interested in using such images. It would require such concentration on camera operation, that the content of the images would almost certain suffer neglect and thus be weakened.

Having had tens of thousands of images in publications, my experience is that an editor is not concerned with quality - it is simply expected - but with content. If quality is an issue at all, your career is over. Quality is a prerequisite, and content rules.

If the photographer is trying to fine-tune each JPEG so it will need no further processing, decisive moment after decisive moment will be lost. Only on a contemplative shoot - such as landscapes - does a shooter have this kind of luxury to fine-tune in-camera. Few contemplative photographs find space in publications - other than very specialized photo magazines. The reality of shooting for publication is that almost every assignment is high-stress on location.

The making of any photograph is four stages - concept, exposure, interpretation and presentation. During the concept stage, a shooter will assess the conditions, and choose the film or digital settings accordingly. The goal of the shoot is to gather raw material - at the highest quality that circumstances will allow. While the shooter must be aware as conditions change and react to them with adjustments to the camera, content is everything.

Since Fox-Talbot made the first negative/positive print in about 1836, the darkroom has been where photographs are made. The great photographer and sage, Ansel Adams, was also a highly accomplished pianist. He said - in musical terms - "The exposure is the composer's score, but the print is the performance." It is in the darkroom - be it digital or the traditional fume-room - that the image is fine-tuned to deliver the precise message the photographer intended. It is transformed from a rich bunch of raw data into a Photograph.

Can Coolpix photographs be published? Yes indeed. My last - probably final - magazine shoots were done with a 3.34MP Coolpix CP990 for a large-format glossy Brit hi-tech magazine. They were used large on the page - one a full page wide shot - and they looked great. A carefully exposed and processed image from any camera can do the job in the hands of a capable photographer.

Of course, you can use chrome-shooter brute-force techniques - doing a bazillion exposures at every setting for every image, bypassing the darkroom and culling without mercy. It was necessary back then when a lot of publications insisted on slides, but there is no justification with digital with the superb sophisticated tools we now have. Even then, the people making the separations for the printing plates usually applied heavy corrections to each slide in pre-publication.

As a freelancer shooting for publication, your work is judged by the last assignment you submit. Your previous assignment could have won the Pulitzer Prize, but turn in a bland bunch of JPEGs, and everything - including you - will be forgotten. Quick way to end a career. No matter the choice of camera, shoot RAW and become a master of Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop.

Editors and art directors are not interested in photo equipment, they are only interested in the photograph. Before you submit an image, contact them and find out precisely what format they want. They may not want JPEGs, but rather TIFF or BMP or even PDF. If you start out with RAW, you can produce a fine-tuned image in any format they desire.

Supplying an image in the resolution and image-file format demanded, is one aspect of the presentation stage mentioned above and critically important. Presentation may govern every step that precedes it in some cases. Presentation may well be the most important stage of all.

For staffers on publications with tight deadlines, more and more cameras are offering the ability to save both a RAW and a JPEG. Come in from assignment, and the JPEGs can be used by the editorial staff as proofs in choosing which images to publish. While the shooter is processing the RAW version, the layout people can use the JPEG for page makeup and that sort of thing. Once the RAW image is processed, and converted to the format the publication favours, it will be swapped for the JPEG. This dual format shooting could also be of use to wedding and event photographers who need quick proofs.

The above assumes a photographer and publication or clients in a hurry. Lazy just guarantees boring, uncaring snapshots. Photographs are made by photographers - cameras are just the tools that are used for the purpose. No camera can make a shooter look better than the skills and sensitivity possessed, but a fine camera can clearly reveal the photographer's weaknesses.
 
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