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Author Topic: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?  (Read 2259 times)

Mousecop

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Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« on: April 14, 2017, 11:55:01 AM »

Hi folks, sorry if this has come up before. I'm wondering if anyone has some experience comparing dedicated monochrome hardware to converting to B&W in post.

I'm fairly comfortable doing B&W conversions in LR, and the ability to tune specific channels gives me a lot of control. At the same time, hardware B&W reputedly produces better quality images in general.

If it matters, I'm limited to sensor conversions. Leica Monochrom is a bit much for me.

Assuming sensor sizes are the same, has anyone found that hardware B&W produces significantly better output?
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unesco

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #1 on: April 14, 2017, 03:30:54 PM »

Assuming sensor sizes are the same, has anyone found that hardware B&W produces significantly better output?
yes, at least my a few tries of Leica Monochrom gives more details, better tonality, better rendering in shadows includingh microcontrast (and higher ISO) - previous version of Leica compared to my EOS 6D.
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #2 on: April 14, 2017, 06:09:19 PM »

Hardware (only) conversion doesn't exist. All B&W conversions, either in the camera or in your laptop, are ultimately performed by some piece of software. Said that, there is no reason why B&W conversions in your computer couldn't be the same or better quality than in camera conversions since you can have more processing power and there is no such speed requisites as in building camera JPEG's. Another story is that some camera produces such beautiful B&W images that you don't manage to match them on your computer.

Regards
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Eric Myrvaagnes

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #3 on: April 14, 2017, 07:22:09 PM »

As I understand it, the Leica Monochrome's big advantage is the fact that every pixel records luminance only, no R G and B.

I have a friend who has done superb B&W work for many years with view cameras and film. He now scans his negatives and prints them digitally. He actually now also owns and uses to good effect a Leica Monochrome, and he does beautiful work with it.

As for me, I wouldn't want one even if I could get a new one for under a hundred dollars, because I would lose all the control I have in LightRoom or PhotoShop to decide what colors in the scene to make lighter and which darker.
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rdonson

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #4 on: April 14, 2017, 11:28:05 PM »

As I understand it the Leica Monochrom is truly a monochrome sensor as Eric describes.

I love B&W.  One of the advantages of my Fuji X-T1 and X-T2 is the ability to shoot RAW+JPG while seeing the Fuji B&W film simulations in the EVF and LCD.  If I used a Leica Monochrome I'd think I'd have to go back to using Yellow, Red and Green filters in front of the lens.  No thanks.  Too many advantages for me sticking with an RGB sensor.
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BartvanderWolf

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #5 on: April 15, 2017, 01:16:15 PM »

Assuming sensor sizes are the same, has anyone found that hardware B&W produces significantly better output?

Hi,

From a tonality point of view, no a monochrome sensor does not produce better output, not even insignificantly.

When you look at the spectral sensitivity curve of a regular sensor as is used for photography, see fig. III.11 at the left side of the spectrum, the response is low in the blue end of the visible spectrum, and it increases towards the red end of the spectrum. This doesn't even resemble a panchormatic film's response.

So without the use of an additional (bluish-cyan) lens filter, the tonal reproduction will be relatively red oriented (darker blues, pale reds), like shooting through a light orange filter.

The benefit of shooting with a Bayer CFA filtered sensor is that you'll get huge amounts of control over how the final tonality will be done, based on color differences. The only 'cost' is a slightly reduced sensitivity compared to an unfiltered monochrome sensor. Tools like Topaz Labs B&W Effects, or the now free Google Nik Silver Efex Pro, or the OnOne products and others, offer superior control and results.

So software conversion is, IMHO, much more flexible and can deliver better results.

Cheers,
Bart
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Ferp

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #6 on: April 15, 2017, 06:42:42 PM »

Hardware (only) conversion doesn't exist.

Mousecop's request was for "hardware B&W".  In addition to the Leica Monochrom, there are niche services that will turn a color digital into B&W only by removing the Bayer sensor.  I'd assume that those options were what he was referring to, although it wasn't clear, as setting a Fuji to one of the B&W simulations and shooting in JPG could also be described as hardware B&W.  It seems to me that you've really got to want a modified camera to buy one or have one converted.  Personally I couldn't justify the cost of a Leica, not just because it's a lot of money but also because I doubt that the improvement would be worth the additional cost (YMMV).  And because like Bart I appreciate the flexibility that converting to B&W from color provides.  For me it's one of the advantages of the digital age.
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unesco

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #7 on: April 16, 2017, 05:49:24 PM »

1. A discussion about software vs hardware BW conversion does not make sense. All hardware solutions are in fact software based this way or another and all software is run on hardware. I used to design both.

2. RGB conversion has its advantages - flexibility in manipulation and many other ones. On the other hand Leica Monochrome gives such a beautiful rendering of details, especially in dark areas plus wonderful tonality incomparably better than my EOS 6D after any type of BW conversion I have tried. If I could afford the overall L M ecosystem, I would definitely grab one.

3. Quite often I wonder why Canon or Nikon don't produce BW version of their FF cameras. I suppose there would be much more customers for them than for astro modified models.
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Ferp

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #8 on: April 16, 2017, 06:35:00 PM »

1. A discussion about software vs hardware BW conversion does not make sense. All hardware solutions are in fact software based this way or another and all software is run on hardware. I used to design both.

Once you use the term "BW conversion" then I guess that's right.  But the Monochrom and any cameras modified to remove the Bayer layer don't capture any color information, as I understand it, and so I don't see how you could describe those hardware solutions as being software-based B&W (obviously the camera still has software). 

The OP asked about "comparing dedicated monochrome hardware to converting to B&W in post".  That to me implied comparing a camera that either by design or modification doesn't capture color information, with converting from color to B&W, either in-camera or out-of-camera.  The heading for this thread was " Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?", and I assume that this was short-hand for a camera that doesn't capture color information, either by design or modification (physical conversion of the camera).

Your observations in #2 about the Monochrom address the question as I understand it, although personally I would need to see this myself in order to be convinced.  What remains unanswered is whether those observations also apply to a modified camera.
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #9 on: April 16, 2017, 08:58:23 PM »

The OP asked about "comparing dedicated monochrome hardware to converting to B&W in post".

The OP titled his post as "Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions". If that is not the same thing as software based in-camera B&W conversion then I'm a shaolin monk. I think he really made several questions in a bit confusing way.

BTW I proposed here:

http://forum.luminous-landscape.com/index.php?topic=117366.0

A way to obtain B&W from an RGB sensor maximizing SNR.

Regards!
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 02:32:35 AM by Guillermo Luijk »
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GrahamBy

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2017, 12:47:59 PM »

The OP titled his post as "Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions". If that is not the same thing as software based in-camera B&W conversion then I'm a shaolin monk.


Get the robes out. If you take the Bayer filter off the sensor, no colour info is ever captured: the spectral sensitivity is determined purely by the sensor. That sounds pretty hardware to me.

I still don't think it's a good idea: at best you win a stop of sensitivity... I just printed out a portrait made under available light at a party, shot at 12800iso. It has way less grain than anything you could do with 35mm film at any iso. For people, I would want more resolution. For landscapes, maybe you really do want that extra-super-duper high quality, but then you can get out a tripod.
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #11 on: April 17, 2017, 01:18:55 PM »



If you take the Bayer filter off the sensor, no colour info is ever captured

So there is no conversion either. Let the OP clarify what he meant rather than doing your own assumptions.
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joofa

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #12 on: April 17, 2017, 03:18:30 PM »

The benefit of shooting with a Bayer CFA filtered sensor is that you'll get huge amounts of control over how the final tonality will be done, based on color differences. The only 'cost' is a slightly reduced sensitivity compared to an unfiltered monochrome sensor.

Not sure if the 'cost' is a 'slightly reduced sensitivity'. Please see the image below that shows two actual images acquired with identical optical parameters with and without Bayer CFA with the same (type of) sensor. Please notice the means on the right side.

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Joofa
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GrahamBy

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #13 on: April 17, 2017, 03:32:38 PM »


So there is no conversion either. Let the OP clarify what he meant rather than doing your own assumptions.

You start with an RGB camera. You convert it to a monochrome camera by removing the filter.
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #14 on: April 17, 2017, 05:34:10 PM »

Not sure if the 'cost' is a 'slightly reduced sensitivity'. Please see the image below that shows two actual images acquired with identical optical parameters with and without Bayer CFA with the same (type of) sensor. Please notice the means on the right side.


Your sample clearly shows the increased sensitivity derived from filter elimination, but reminds me of other benefits of keeping the filter array: increased sensor progressiveness, i.e. dynamic range.

I criticised the Leica Monochrome for paradoxically having a more 'digital' response than RGB cameras, since RAW channel individual exposures act as a dynamic range enhancer on RGB sensors.

Normally the B/R channel clip around 1,5 stops later than the G channel. While in a Leica Monochrome you have to be very careful about clipping the highlights, on RGB sensors you have around 1,5 extra stops of highlight headroom since B&W (actually also colour information) can be reconstructed from a single RAW channel.

The sun in this scene:



Has the following RAW data in EV along the red line:



A monochrome highlight reconstruction strategy (dcraw -H 2):


Inpaint colour algorithm (RawTherapee's colour propagation):


Playing ETTR on a monochrome sensor without accurate RAW histograms is more dangerous than doing it on RGB sensors. Moreover, saving highlights information on a monochrome sensor yields to overall severe underexposure while a RGB sensor still provides a good SNR on the G channel to save the shadow areas. RGB colour filter array acts as an HDR-like sensor: B/R save the highlights, G saves the shadows.

Regards.
« Last Edit: April 17, 2017, 07:28:11 PM by Guillermo Luijk »
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Ferp

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2017, 07:40:19 PM »

I pity the poor OP Mousecop.  Ask a simple (but slightly ambiguous) question and the thread wanders far away.  Guillermo first tries to deny that its about hardware modification vs Monochrom and then writes a thesis about why it's a bad idea.  In such situations the OP is never heard from again.  I suspect that all he wanted was some first-hand experience, but I think he's out of luck in this forum.
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Guillermo Luijk

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2017, 11:01:27 PM »

Look for a life worth being lived Ferp.
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joofa

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #17 on: April 18, 2017, 11:05:13 AM »

Your sample clearly shows the increased sensitivity derived from filter elimination, but reminds me of other benefits of keeping the filter array: increased sensor progressiveness, i.e. dynamic range.

I criticised the Leica Monochrome for paradoxically having a more 'digital' response than RGB cameras, since RAW channel individual exposures act as a dynamic range enhancer on RGB sensors.

Normally the B/R channel clip around 1,5 stops later than the G channel.

Playing ETTR on a monochrome sensor without accurate RAW histograms is more dangerous than doing it on RGB sensors. Moreover, saving highlights information on a monochrome sensor yields to overall severe underexposure while a RGB sensor still provides a good SNR on the G channel to save the shadow areas. RGB colour filter array acts as an HDR-like sensor: B/R save the highlights, G saves the shadows.


I think you are right about some DR advantages. Monochrome and color cameras have different uses. So it is not always a question which is universally better.
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GrahamBy

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #18 on: April 18, 2017, 12:22:39 PM »

since RAW channel individual exposures act as a dynamic range enhancer on RGB sensors.

Excellent point. Of course in utopia, we could imagine replacing the RGB Bayer filter with a grey-scale Bayer filter, where all cells would be in their linear range for most of the exposure range, but with different sub-sets remaining operative at the extremes : a sort of built in HDR facility.

In fact I believe it has been done: someone somewhere was recalling an early digital sensor supposed to help wedding photographers, by reserving a few lower-sensitivity cells to capture highlights from eg wedding dresses. In an ancient technology where the basic cell DR was far less than today.
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Manoli

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Re: Monochrome Camera (conversion) vs Software Conversions?
« Reply #19 on: April 18, 2017, 12:27:25 PM »

A Fetishist’s Guide to the Monochrom (Part 3) : pretty much explaining Guillermo's post in layman terms (sort of ..)
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