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Black and White and all that...


Alan7140

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I have been on record in complaining that digital killed B&W as a truly viable monochrome end-product (unless created by extremely skilled practitioners, of course), with the interpolation of Bayer sensors and the algorithms written for "removal of colour" changing what was once a guttural, organic look that film gave to a B&W image replaced with a smoothed-out "plastic" looking image with the colour removed. the tonal response was now linear, as opposed to the "S" curve response of B&W (silver halide) film.

So on Saturday, with the winter sun shining and not a cloud in the sky, I tracked down a few static subjects filled with contrast and tonal gradations, packed my two Sigma Merrill Foveon cameras along with the Fuji X-T1 and my Mamiya RZ67 film camera, along with lenses for the Fuji and Mamiya that would roughly equal the AOV of the DP1 Merrill (19mm) and DP3 Merrill (50mm) with the intent of setting up a tripod and shooting the same scene with Foveon, X-Trans and T-Max in turn, just to verify that my satisfaction with the Fuji, as far as its monochrome rendition goes, wasn't just mere wishful thinking over the battle I had had in getting a B&W result that pleased me with all my previous Bayer sensor cameras. I also threw in the Sigma Merrill cameras to confirm that while they did to a degree reproduce the classic digital "plastic" look, the tonal gradation and acutance with which they did so comes as close to matching or even exceeding a print up to 20x24 from a 5x4 film negative.

As I no longer have a 5x4 camera I couldn't do a direct comparison, but I was keen to affirm that the little Merrills definitely surpassed the medium format Mamiya, which a mere decade ago was still up there with the Hasselblad, Pentax 6x7 and Rollei as the standard equipment for professional use.

As they say, the best laid plans...... well, don't necessarily follow suit with preconceived outcomes.

While the overall expectations were partially confirmed, it was the performance of the once-professional Mamiya RZ67 and the T-Max TMY (400 ISO) film I had loaded which gave me one heck of a jolt as to just how far digital from relatively tiny APS-C-sized sensors has come, and while I was hoping to prove that film still does B&W "better", I have to concede up-front that this is no longer true, and by a surprisingly huge margin at that. I still prefer the "look" of the non-linear tonal response, but that's where it begins and ends.

So my quest to find a good used Fuji GSW 690 film camera and start shooting hand-held location and street on film again died a swift and permanent death when the scans started coming off the scanner. I think I'll put the money to far better use in buying either another lens for the Fuji X-T1, or maybe even a new Sigma DP0 Quattro. Thank you all the greedy bastards on eBay who were asking way too much for a 25+ year old obsolete film camera with absolutely nothing other than a fixed lens with inbuilt mechanical shutter, a range-finder viewfinder, a place to put a roll of film, and a shutter button and a crank to expose and wind on the film. You just saved me hundreds of dollars. Much obliged.

For me, aside from maybe (very) occasional use of the RZ & RB67 cameras to consume the film I still have left in the freezer, B&W film is dead.

So, to the results:

I still think maybe that B&W film "looks" better, but IQ-wise the difference now is so great that no matter how good it "looks", you wouldn't intentionally use it instead of digital if you owned either a Fuji X-trans or a Sigma Foveon. The Sigma is still challenged with blowing out highlights and bedevilled absolutely awful software processing support, but the Fuji is none of that - the results are superb, the dynamic range more than adequate, and the equipment itself is a joy to use. I love holding and using that camera as much as I loved holding and using my Hasselblads over a decade ago.

All photos cropped to roughly the same dimensions, resized to 1600px high, so you'll have to "click up", and better still, hit the "Click here to view full size" button after clicking up, and save them to a folder on your desktop so you can flick through them to really appreciate the differences.

First image (shadow/highlight detail on a mainly monochrome subject) :

FHYFQSz.jpg

Mamiya RZ67, TMY (400 ISO) film, 50/4.5 lens, f/16:

YRwJFLB.jpg

Sigma DP1 Merrill 19/2.8 lens, f/11 @ 100 ISO

bwOmMst.jpg

Fuji X-T1, 10-24/4 lens @19mm, f/11, @ 200 ISO

3ch45Uy.jpg

Second image (shadow/highlight detail, colour differences, vegetation and image resolution):

88YRDGl.jpg

Mamiya RZ67, 50/4.5 lens, f/16 TMY

ky1ZRu3.jpg

Sigma DP1 Merrill, 19/2.8, f/11 @ 100 ISO

4gGMIC4.jpg

Fuji X-T1, 10-24/4 @ 19mm, f/11 @ 200 ISO

2yv5rAf.jpg

Third Image (separation of many different colour shades tonally, shadow/highlights, fine detail retention)

HEoqm3E.jpg

Mamiya RZ67, 180/4 lens, f/16 TMY

C1kCaFi.jpg

Sigma DP3 Merrill, 50/2.8 lens, f/11 100 ISO

Ps5nFCm.jpg

Fuji X-T1, Zeiss Touit 50/2.8M lens, f/11 @ 200 ISO

fcnXVC8.jpg

Method & conclusion:

I used the digital cameras at their native resolution - the Sigmas because increased ISO is purely and obviously an amplification of the signal which adds noise, and processing the top layer only of the three-stack sensor for cleanest results distorts the colour response to that of the full three-colour layers when converted to B&W as a whole. Likewise I used the Fuji at 200 ISO to completely kill any possibility of the DR function kicking in as it can at higher than 800 ISO to dramatically increase dynamic range. The object was to see if film really does still have that legendary DR advantage. (No, it doesn't! ;) )

I used T-Max 400 film as (1) I have the most of it left in stock ;),

and (2) I assumed that the huge area of the 6x7 format would enjoy an unfair advantage over the minuscule APS-C sensors if used with finer-grain T-Max 100. (Wrong again! :) )

As I have already indicated, even allowing for the fact that a scanned negative won't be as good as a directly printed one, fact is that this is the way most negatives will be put to use these days - scanned and an inkjet print - at least that most certainly is the way that my negatives would be put to use. I have absolutely no intention of resurrecting my wet darkroom for printing, even though it is still fully assembled and operational. I've done more than my time under the amber lights over several decades, so never again......

I reckon the Fuji overall blitzes the field here - combining just the right amount of "organic" look with the superb resolution of the Fujinon and Zeiss lenses. I will now stop lamenting the past and start actively pursuing B&W again without thinking that "this would be better done with film". The Sigma can't be faulted for finesse in resolution and smooth tonal transition, but it really is hobbled by the lack of software support and its propensity to blow highlights. The Mamiya - well, that's just an antique, obsolete, collectible curiosity now.

From this little exercise, I will now shut up forever about the superiority of film B&W.

It isn't. :thankyou:


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Alan,

 

This is a great comparison .

 

I remember an image you shared of a couple that got married in a fancy looking building, it had the most exquisite detail, light was beautiful, tonality was pleasant , a superb example of  what a well done b&w film image can be

 

You have also mentioned multiple times the fact that converting digital to b&w is not just a matter of desaturation, but using curves to make the image pop, this is alo takes practice and some restrain, as a bad processing can be obvious.

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Regards,

Armando

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Thanks, Armando.

 

Processing is indeed important to get the best out of B&W, but unfortunately most B&W seems to be done these days by simply pushing the desaturation slider all the way over. I did these with that in mind - I should have mentioned that I converted to B&W using a common enough method - Nik SilverEffex 2, neutral default setting.

 

I could have tweaked them but decided from the point of comparison it was best to keep everything constant. So the digital files were initially processed with only exposure, highlight and shadow adjustments where necessary to achieve a full spread of tonal values (i.e. a histogram that went as close as possible to left and right edges).

 

As for that wedding shot you remarked on - that was shot on 5x4, but I can guarantee that had it been invented back then, the Sigma DP3 would easily have matched it for tonality and detail. In fact I'd go so far as to say that a 16x20" print would have been noticeable better from the Sigma than that 5x4 neg, although given the history of digital, there would be no way of reading that file today, however the neg is just as useful and retrievable now as it was back then. As an archiving material, film takes a lot of beating.

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Andrew L (gryphon1911)

It's a very interesting article and I'm glad you did it.  Sometimes we need to prove some things to ourselves before we actually believe it.

 

I for one am that kind of person.  I hate going on the word of other people, not because they may not be honest, but I want to be sure that I understand the nuances of the process.

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Exactly, Andrew. I have been trading on my earlier experiences with D2x, D3 & D3s Nikons, along with the D7000 I bought in 2011 because at 3200 & 6400 ISO it provided files which converted into convincing B&W. However being confined to ISO that high brought with it hassles in many photographic situations; indeed, in bright sunshine photography for that end result was all but impossible save putting ND filters on the lens, which then led to other problems with seeing to focus properly.

 

I've always thought that the Fuji did B&W well, and indeed it was my confidence in the large-format B&W quality that the DP Merrills could produce which had me buy an entire studio flash outfit with soft boxes, stands and ancillaries just to get the best monochrome portrait results in the large-format style I used to do in my studio back in the 1980's, using a converted-to-5x4 half-plate studio camera. Suffice to say the Merrills have performed that task as expected.

 

This was quite an eye-opener as far as comparisons go, I have used the Mamiya many times on its own, but never alongside the Fuji or Sigma cameras like this (the RZ/RB outfit is plenty heavy enough without trying to carry other cameras as well!). I was always pleased with the results, always up to expectations, always clear and sharp. Until I saw these direct comparisons, that is. It almost pains me now to wonder how much better the shots taken then would have been had I used the Fuji or Sigma instead.

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Andrew L (gryphon1911)

We all feel the "should have, could have, would have" syndrome at some point.

 

Whenever I feel like that, I just remember how wonderful it is that we have machines at all that can capture these slices of our world at that point in time.

 

A sharp image might be better than a blurry image, but a blurry image is better than no image at all!  While I'm not saying that the older images were blurry, I am saying that having an image is great and means something, even if not as technically superior as the images we see today.

 

You posting this should be a big eye opener for a lot of people out there, and that is this:

Photography is a journey that once embarked upon is one that is not easily given up on and the learning never stops.

 

I for one am glad that experienced shooters like you share these kinds of things.

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Thanks, Andrew.

 

It is something I should have done a couple of years ago, but as I knew from the outset it would involve at least a full day of tedium in procedure, darkroom and collation, the lazy side of me kept putting it off.

 

However, as those who suffered through my months of reports in experimenting with ways to get the best out of processing Fuji X-Trans files at the time that such processing was a hit and miss affair that had already almost dealt a fatal blow to Fuji's viability in the professional field by Adobe's initial woeful interpretation, you might gather that had the perfectionist gene massaged repeatedly by my Teutonic parents as I was growing up to the point that while I still prefer initially to put things off, until I know for sure through hard evidence that something is as I think it is (or not), eventually I will seek to obtain that hard proof in whatever way necessary.

 

In this case I'm pleased that there was no ambiguity in the result, and that the procedure I devised worked with minimum fuss and with no need to repeat anything, which in itself was a win as far as I was concerned! :)

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Thank you for sharing your insights.

To manipulate the response curve of both my D70ies I used Nikon Capture 4.x which contained a Camera Control programme. Later Nikon charged 200 Euro ectra for camera control and I said. No. Thank you.

Now I bought Google Nik Collection and do the film look in Photoshop.

Regenerate green infrastructure. Let Biodiversity rule!

I blog at: http://klimafarm.com/

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Alan,

 

Thank you for this posting and your gift of "a full day of tedium in procedure, darkroom and collation".  You have just about won me over on the Fuji. I'm still enamored with the X100 as a tool, so much that I haven't had thoughts any more about using it to slay goliath. So many of my images are snapshots of family and the LR processing is a very significant underpinning of my work flow, so I've been very reluctant to commit to X-trans.

 

The rumor mill keeps holding hope for an upcoming major update of the Fuji sensor. That may be just what I need to make a system commitment, or possibly one of the "cast off X-T1's" with the rumored 35mm f/2 WR lens will be my entry.

 

I'm an experimentalist by profession and avocation. I know that there must have been a lot more thought put into this report than just showed up in the "full day of tedium". Thanks for that also.

 

Your efforts around the various sensor alternatives, including X-trans have fed my education in digital. 

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Best Regards,

Roger

X-Pro2 } 18-55mm | 35mm f/2 

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Processing is indeed important to get the best out of B&W, but unfortunately most B&W seems to be done these days by simply pushing the desaturation slider all the way over. I did these with that in mind - I should have mentioned that I converted to B&W using a common enough method - Nik SilverEffex 2, neutral default setting.

 

 

Alan, I've been reading the Nik website but I can't seem to get a handle on how the file type passes through the work flow. Can a X-trans file be converted to B&W using SilverEffex in an external edit step from within LR? Is it necessary to do a Xtrans RAW conversion in LR first then edit the resulting tiff/jpg in SilverEffex? As you can see, I'm a bit lost.

Best Regards,

Roger

X-Pro2 } 18-55mm | 35mm f/2 

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Alan, I've been reading the Nik website but I can't seem to get a handle on how the file type passes through the work flow. Can a X-trans file be converted to B&W using SilverEffex in an external edit step from within LR? Is it necessary to do a Xtrans RAW conversion in LR first then edit the resulting tiff/jpg in SilverEffex? As you can see, I'm a bit lost.

first you must do a proper RAW conversion.

Many XTrans users commit to PhotoNinja which is not easy to use but one gets used to it.

For me the NexGenFuji is not about the sensor. They have to come up with a VF as in Leica Q.

I am positive that this could make me sell my Nikon stuff and jump from X100T to a system...

Regenerate green infrastructure. Let Biodiversity rule!

I blog at: http://klimafarm.com/

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Thank you for sharing your insights.

To manipulate the response curve of both my D70ies I used Nikon Capture 4.x which contained a Camera Control programme. Later Nikon charged 200 Euro ectra for camera control and I said. No. Thank you.

Now I bought Google Nik Collection and do the film look in Photoshop.

 

Frank, the film response curve gives a very different look than does any digital filter that I've tried does to a digital file. I used SilverEffex2 for the B&W conversion simply because it is the name that most often pops up when people describe how they turned their image to B&W.

 

Perhaps the best way to actually mimic the tonal response of actual film is to use LightZone and modify the individual zone spreads rather than pulling a curve adjustment as is provided by most editors. The LightZone method gives you far greater control in spreading or contracting individual zones while controlling the effect this has on the other zones, It's hard to describe in words, but becomes clear when using LightZone - which is free, so there's no financial penalty in trying.

 

Digital "film" filters also try to add grain to the image for the effect of film - of course this is not valid as it is a noise overlay - film images are actually made up of the grain, so the look is different.

 

 

Alan, I've been reading the Nik website but I can't seem to get a handle on how the file type passes through the work flow. Can a X-trans file be converted to B&W using SilverEffex in an external edit step from within LR? Is it necessary to do a Xtrans RAW conversion in LR first then edit the resulting tiff/jpg in SilverEffex? As you can see, I'm a bit lost.

Roger, see my reply to Frank above regarding Nik.

 

To all:

 

What I have further done is to match as closely as possible the results from T-Max 400 (without the grain, of course) in tonal response - it became obvious then why a curve adjustment in Ps/LR/Whatever editor is insufficient on its own - there is also a colour response to take into account. Digital is linear, film is not - each shade of colour has its own response, and that seems to be where the main difference lies.

 

there really is only one program that specifically caters for this in adjustment terms - the venerable, free, but radically unfamiliar GUI LightZone.

 

Read the CAVEAT at the end of this response first, and if you still want to try this:

 

Download this dropbox preset zip file (and LightZone if you don't have it already): https://www.dropbox.com/s/r3cw2q3fp2bjv7k/Black%20%26%20White%3BT-Max%20400.zip?dl=0

 

If you haven't already, install LightZone then unzip the linked Zip file above and drag it into the following folder (Windows:) - C:\Users\{NAME}\Documents\LightZone\Templates.

If using a Mac, open LightZone, choose any image, hit the "Edit" button, then cmd+click on any of the preset names in the B&W preset menu,at left, and scroll to "Show in Finder" (or whatever command links you to the folder tree). That'll show you where to put the unzipped LZT file. Sorry, I don't have a Mac so can't be more specific.

If using Linux - well you probably can code the whole program and OS already if you've worked out how to use that geek OS, so I don't need to hold your hand.... ;)

 

Then close and open LZ again and the preset "T-Max 400" should appear in the B&W Presets menu in the Edit field.

 

Open your image in the LZ Editor;

go to the RIGHT panel, select the "Raw Tone Curve" menu bar;

click on the padlock to unlock, right-click (cmd+click) the bar again and click delete. This should leave you with only the open Raw Adjustments panel (and your image will look pretty terrible).

 

Mouse over to the B&W Presets menu in the LEFT panel and click on the T-Max 400 preset you have just installed.

Your image should turn B&W (and you'll have to trust me on this) should look very similar to something taken on B&W film, minus the grain.

The only adjustment that you should now have to make is the exposure slider in the Raw Adjustments panel, and then maybe fine-tune things in the editor of your choice. :) Add grain via the add-noise route if you want the effect to be a bit coarser, but of course the only way to exactly duplicate film is to use film, of course.... ;)

 

CAVEAT: I worked this out from a Fuji X-Trans raw file, so if it doesn't work with other (Bayer) cameras, let me know and I'll try to do a similar thing with a raw file from the camera of your choice - you may have to upload a raw to dropbox for me, though (I only have D7000, D2x, D3, D3s and D600 NEF files here).

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You most probably saved me several hundred EURO ill spent, Alan.

 

As everyone seems to be selling medium format here these days, I was hesitating between MF and digital. You closed the case. 

 

Thanks a lot for sharing your knowledge.  

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No worries, Bruno, the results were a complete surprise to me as well.

 

I still think really big prints (mural-size) will always look better from negs because grain enlarges really well no matter how big one goes.

 

However once digital reaches the stage where the pixels start showing and have to be interpolated with more pixels it falls apart very quickly - the IQ gets shot to pieces to the point that it looks plain ugly.

 

So maybe there's still a spot for film, but really, it's only in the huge print realm. For anything up to and including A2 its is well ahead, and even A1 that I've printed looks incredibly decent once in a frame.

 

So that's the end of film for me, as I don't do mural B&W prints.

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I still romanticise about shooting 6x7 B&W in the desert in Namibia, specifically for the purpose of enlarging to near mural size prints. 

 

My resolution for the future of my photography is to ultimately move into the limited edition fine art print world. I have to get to better locations and make better pictures as a start, I guess. The past few weeks I have been dreaming about selling my little pickup truck and buying a used Land Rover Defender to do personal overland trips specifically for this purpose. I still feel that our 2013 safari to Namibia was plagued by too much rushing to get to the next place, not leaving us with enough time to do that kind of trip the right way. It really wore me out!

 

A few years before he died my Dad and a friend of his travelled through that country in his Jeep, camping wherever they went. He said it was the best holiday he ever had. I'm not so wild about the Jeep aspect, but I am in love with the Defender TD5 110's so that's the goal. :)

 

Will you sell off your old film stock and processing equipment, Alan? I recall you said you had quite a bit of it left over. 

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I did the living-in-the-car thing in my then new Freelander2 in 2011 when I travelled 10,000km in a month around NSW. It surely is the best way to travel, no booked accommodation to get to, no deadlines, stop for as long as you want, wherever you want.

 

-------

 

When I said mural prints - I was of course referring to legitimate B&W film, not that hybrid colour-technology "chromogenic" crap. Large prints need sharp, metallic silver grain to enlarge, not splodges of dye formed after the silver grains have been bleached as with chromogenic film.

 

This means B&W results only - colour prints at mural size are pretty awful in my view. Without crisp, metallic grain they also look really mushy at huge sizes up close. Same for the chromogenic B&W.

 

I have this thing about sharp grain, which in turn caused me to buy a Durst Laborator 1200 Vari-Point point-light source enlarger, which requires a whole different approach to printing. However there is no sharper way to print grain, it is best described as a shadow in full sunlight on a clear day as opposed to a shadow cast on a day of high overcast for the result it gives compared to a condenser enlarger or worse, a cold-light cathode diffusion enlarger. These days a good scan and a dose of sharpening does a similar job.

 

That said, (and perhaps my examples weren't dissuasive enough), I have to expand what I said about enlarging digital - enter the world of landscape focus stacking and multi-row pano combined and you have an enlargement potential in high detail that will fill a mural wall with pin-sharp, unsampled, unpixellated detail that no film mural print has a hope of competing with, even one taken on an 8x10 camera. I have a 9'x44" print of that river scene I've posted before in which it is easy to discern the individual spears on fern fronds on the opposite bank of the river. The print could easily be done at twice the size without upsampling if I could find a printer with the size and resolution (and the money!) to do it.

 

I must admit I have pano'd myself out at the moment as they are bloody hard work still - but just as stitching panos from a single row of scanned negs taken with the Hasselblad and stitching them with the immensely crude programs of the day (1990's - which required much pulling and pushing of the warp tool in Photoshop layers by hand to get proper overlaps), you can be sure that a few years from now all my massively complex stacked'n'stitched multi-row panos will be easily produced by some new software, just as those early single row panos are now done so easily by someone simply panning their phone across a scene.

 

When that day comes, full-colour mural-sized panos will become feasible, and not the experimental undertaking that I have been struggling with since 2009 when I moved on from stacked'n'stitched single row affairs, and at that point it is very likely that "fine art" will cease to mean "Black and White" and will rush to embrace colour.

 

As far as B&W stock goes - sure I can let that go - it is a real mixture, though, all expired (of course) but most has been frozen, some refrigerated (that wouldn't fit in the freezer), but it all works well enough. None has been subject to heat or x-ray. I have heaps of processing tanks and spirals, but they have been "used" and being plastic are not in showroom condition any longer. It's all Jobo stuff, so unfortunately spare bits are not available. I do have a huge Jobo rotary tank (without the rotary attachments) which I used as an inversion tank when I had a real load of 5x4 sheets to process, but it needs a lot of liquid to fill for inversion processing - so it is little used and might be the better option. I'll take stock of what I've got and update you by PM with photos in the next few days if you like.

 

If I divest that stuff, then I won't need my RB/RZ camera, if that's also of interest. All the lenses were bought new/old stock in 2011 in unopened boxes, the RZ body is as new, the RB body is used but excellent. The lenses are 50/1.5, 90/3.5 & 180/4SF. The first and last are RZ67 only, the 90 will work on the RZ as well as the RB. The Mamiya stuff is the cheapest MF on the market so if you're contemplating this seriously, it might be the best if an exit is decided should the film project not be up to what you're hoping for and you don't want to lose money. I'm not in a hurry to sell it, though, so it's here if you're interested in that as well.

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Thanks Alan. I'd love to have that suff, but there's this great expanse of water between us that makes getting it a little difficult, if not expensive. :)

 

Maybe one day when I cross that water to visit my brother in Queensland I can make a detour to Tasmania and actually learn something about film processing from you in person. 

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That's fine, Dallas. Although at this end Australia Post is still in public ownership and under a mandated law to provide a full delivery service, subsidised by the taxpayer, hence sending stuff from here to anywhere isn't as expensive as DHL and the like charge. The processing stuff won't be going anywhere, and the camera - well my dealer in Sydney isn't too keen, either - the Mamiyas are big and take up shelf space for little return.

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Sadly the same can't be said for our postal services which seems to operate out of the Bermuda triangle. things go in and never come out. :) I'll give it all some serious thought, Alan, but I can say that it definitely won't be something I can look at this year. 

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Absolutely no hurry, Dallas - none of it is going anywhere. I might still get the urge to use it all a few times if only to use up the chemistry that I have and which is already past its use-by date.

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Ron Scubadiver

Carolyn Guild got very good B&W results with her D3x which proves it isn't impossible.  What she told me was avoid using global highlight and shadow sliders and make local adjustments with burn and dodge in Ps.  I have found B&W conversions can sometimes look a little better if done in Ps instead of ACR.

 

I will admit there are some files created by my D800 that look decent in color and like crap after a B&W conversion.  It's the dreaded muddy mid tones.   A local photographer who works exclusively in B&W recently retired his Mamiya for a Phase One, processing in Capture One.  It must be nice to afford a $50k camera.

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Before doing a b&w conversion I often saturate the colors of the image ,  and then play with the luminosity of the tones in the b&w conversion. This seems to get me better results.

Doing it in PS is indeed easier as I can go back to the color version and adjust color saturation easily, then do tone adjustments in b&w , iterate as needed

Regards,

Armando

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Carolyn Guild got very good B&W results with her D3x which proves it isn't impossible.  What she told me was avoid using global highlight and shadow sliders and make local adjustments with burn and dodge in Ps.  I have found B&W conversions can sometimes look a little better if done in Ps instead of ACR.

 

I will admit there are some files created by my D800 that look decent in color and like crap after a B&W conversion.  It's the dreaded muddy mid tones.   A local photographer who works exclusively in B&W recently retired his Mamiya for a Phase One, processing in Capture One.  It must be nice to afford a $50k camera.

 

Carolyn certainly got good results from B&W, but as you say, the process was not so straight forward, and requires firstly that the photographer firstly identifies that there is a problem with mid-tones generally encountered when simply desaturating a digital colour file. Carolyn was acutely aware of this and did go to pains to try to educate those who would seek to specialise in B&W of the effect that muddy mid-tones had on the potential sparkle (for want of a better word) that made a truly engaging B&W print.

 

This would appear to be lost on most users of digital cameras if the results being displayed online of "B&W" are anything to go by.

 

Before doing a b&w conversion I often saturate the colors of the image ,  and then play with the luminosity of the tones in the b&w conversion. This seems to get me better results.

Doing it in PS is indeed easier as I can go back to the color version and adjust color saturation easily, then do tone adjustments in b&w , iterate as needed

 

You're on the right track there, Armando - the Bayer 2x2 GRGB grid apportions equal status to red, green and blue via the second G receptor which works out luminosity, not colour, and applies that the the RGB pixels accordingly. The eye automatically has more sensitivity to the Green-yellow colours of the spectrum, which means that bumping up those colours when converting to B&W will probably give you a more pleasing tonal result in monochrome.

 

The Fuji X-Trans already has this bias built into it via its 6x6 grid having a green bias - extra G colour receptors as compared with the R&G over and above those used for luminance calculation, which is why I figure it gives a more pleasing B&W conversion straight out of the camera. The Sigma Foveon works differently again, using just the top layer gives a monochrome rendition that is unique in itself - while that layer is relegated to calculating blue when used in conjunction with the G & R layers below it, in monochrome it is still all-colour sensitive and gives an even response to tone, so although a straight line response, it is not biased towards any one colour and purely sees tone, just as does the filterless Leica Monochrom. This means that using colour filters in front of the lens has the same effect as if they were used on a film camera loaded with B&W film, which gives the camera an uncanny ability to act as though it was just that.

 

Digital camera with B&W achieved by desaturation after demosaicing using Adobe "orange filter" preset:

HIYs9J8.jpg

 

Sigma Foveon with orange filter in front of lens.

x3MLFYY.jpg

 

Perhaps I should have included this example in the original post, because it rather dramatically illustrated the effect that initial colour sensitivity and response can have on anything you do afterwards.

 

It also rather dramatically demonstrates the image-killing effect that "muddy mid-tones" can have on a monochrome photograph.

 

Here's the original colour image:

whc7Afd.jpg

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Guest namredlawt

This was great information. I too am enjoying the merrills monochrome capabilities. I still use film because I like the process and the cameras but I find the merrils to be perfect for my needs with printing as the end product. I am refining a workflow that results in platinum/palladium prints from digital negative. If it was just for web, almost anything would do however the sigmas exceed the quality and ease of scans from film. I don't shoot with Fuji so I can't coment on it however the sigma merrills are perfect for my needs and the workflow is much better, less expensive and more consistent. I will keep shooting film with my mamiyas, Bw and color. When my film is all gone, I will be hard pressed to justify continuing with film for black and white.

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