The Tyranny of Choice
Kia ora tatou:
John W writes in a comment:
I remember a lecture you did on films and colours, Fuji, Kodak and Agfa all giving you different versions of tone of the same colour. Just wondering do you think you get the same thing with image sensors on the digitals... does the image sensor on a canon give you a nicer skin tone for example than a Nikon or a Pentax?... should these be things we're thinking about when we're working through our RAW conversions?
John, to my way of thinking, the answer is yes…and more. Let’s think about it.
The first thing that photon about to form your image runs into is your lens, and the intentions of the lens designers, namely the quality and chemical composition of the glass and the coatings. A few years ago, I switched from Nikon to Canon (I was using film then) and noticed a lack of contrast and a certain muddiness in the colours of the Ektachrome E100 I was using at the time. At first I thought it was the film stock, but a few tests resolved (pardon the pun) that it was the lenses. Switching to Fuji film made everything come right.
Lesson: the lens manufacturer’s design philosophy colours your image-literally.
Then there is the sensor. Again, it is like buying a roll of film. You are buying into the sensor (and software) designer’s philosophy. Some manufacturer’s use a CCD, others a CMOS sensor, while Fuji use the Super CCD. All are different, and each has its own personality. Try the same shot in RAW on the same subject and you will see what I mean.
Even the same sensor on a different camera will impart a certain feel to an image. (Which is why I am after a D30, if anyone knows the whereabouts of one for sale). As an example: I had a brief fling with a D70s between my EOS 10D and the ID Mk II I went on to own. Frankly I hated the colour off the sensor and the palette seemed to overaccentuate the blues. Not to mention the harshness ( read: noise/contrast combo) out of the sensor. However that probably comes from my preference for the Canon “look”. My friend Anthony McKee is getting stunning quality from his D70 and now D200.
Finally there is the Raw Converter you use. Have a look at one of my first posts in this blog. It has to be said: your final image is coloured by the RAW converter you use. Again you are inheriting a design philosophy foisted on you by a manufacturer's concept of what that should be.
Oh, and did I mention the choice of printer...and paper...and ink stocks???
Nothing is new under the sun. Ansel Adams had lenses he favoured because of their unique tonal qualities. He chose different developers to suit the image he was producing. He used a range of papers from different manufacturers to achieve what he wanted.
He called it previsualisation. In other words, having your process so down that a previsualised result become predictable and achievable. Experiment and practise. The more you do it, the quicker you will get on top of process. As he said:
the way to Art is through Craft, not around it.
The trick then becomes to mix-and-match the different components of your system until you get the look you are seeking.
Assuming, of course, that you have put the time into deciding what that is.
Ka kite ano