Saturday, 2 February 2008

Digicam prints

This morning I decided to try some prints from my digicam. I printed off the photo from the last post ("Preparing for the off") trying a couple of processing options. These are actually the first prints I've produced from this camera.

This was shot at ISo400 which appears pretty grainy on screen but is sharp as I had balanced the camera on a solid object. (An aside, the Samsung A503 that I use has a flat base and flat ends which makes it ideal for fixed position shots. All the hotel room shots were done this way. It's a feature I'd look for in a pocket camera in future.)

In all cases I cropped the dark portion along the bottom and a funny dark stripe that appears along the top edge. I also rotated slightly to overcome the small tilt.

First up I went my normal route: shadow noise reduction, tonal separation and as much contrast and output sharpening as it would stand. Loss of detail from noise reduction (even restricted to the shadows) and aiming for a smooth look really limited the amount of brightness I could get.

The second try was to ignore noise reduction, take the grain as it comes and try brightening the key areas. A final tweak kept the tones even in the sky and dark parts of the water.

The final outputs are surprising. Both prints are 8" wide on 12" (A4) paper - that's native resolution at 300ppi. The "smooth finish" from the first effort has great tonal separation in the shadows and has quite a lot of fine highlight detail but the main parts of the image are way too dark. It has nice details and stands up well to normal viewing distances but lacks a little something overall. The second print is much better than I had expected. the noise produces a very fine texture in the shadows that is not at all unpleasant. Lack of NR means there are a few details that haven't been lost and the ability to brighten the mid-tones more (by being less worried about noise) gives a real lift to the print. I'm very pleased with the outcome.

I had started this little exercise wondering if I could really produce good prints from the A503, with it's grainy output and limited resolution (5MP). It turns out that the printed image is even better than the on-screen with plenty enough detail for a goo, medium size print. Wven with the fairly well compressed JPEGs, there is plenty of scope for enhancement to produce quite a fine print.

I'll have to experiment with colour now, to see if there is a similar story.

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