This is a long post with 6 photos, so bear with me...
Last night was a clear night so I thought I would put the D800e to the test by photographing the waxing crescent moon. I should have been out a 1/2 hour earlier to keep some of the dusk sky colour, but such is family life.
Settings: Nikkor 300mm ƒ4 AF-S IF-ED; ƒ5.6 @ 1/60; ISO200; no filter; on a sturdy tripod & head & MLU; NEF 14-bit raw capture. All images are screen captures of Lightroom 4.1 with each image zoomed to 100%
For comparison sake, here is the Unmanipulated raw file and what I have called "Normal" processing to enhance this specific image to my liking.
Frankly, I am amazed at the detail and sharpness of even the unmanipulated raw file at 100%. Also, there appears to be some significant Highlight "headroom" compared to Nikon's blinking highlights as the right of edge of the moon was blinking on the LCD preview. I'm aware of the inaccuracies of the Preview, but was surprised by how much is actually there "behind" the blinking highlights. When imported into LR, there were no clipped highlights - a function of LR's reading of the image file. While this is all fine and good, it is not the point of this post...
I came across some interesting thresholds with the Shadow and Highlight adjustments. I'm one of those persnickety types who do not use the sliders, but use the value boxes so that I can increase and decrease the values with the cursor keys with greater precision and consistency (+/–1 with the up/down Cursor key; +/–10 with Shift+Cursor Up/Down). I tend not to "creep up to" settings, but rather overshoot and come back (not unlike the days of test strips and variable contrast filtration in the enlarger!). I know, I'm anal!
So, here's what happened when I decreased Shadows by just –1 (from 0 to –1): this 1 point decrease in Shadows blew out the Highlights and marginally increased the Blacks. Hmmm...very interesting! Even more interesting is that there is no significant change decreasing by one point at a time until I reach -27 then boom: Highlights are in balance again (as per Normal above). Then at -28, boom: the Highlights are back to being blown out and continue that way until -35 when they instantly go back to "Normal". From -36 to -38 the Highlights gradually brighten, then at -39: boom they are back to being blown out and stay they way through to -100. Remember - this is the Shadow adjustment I am changing, yet its affect is greatest on the Highlights - go figure!
Here is the "Normal–1 Shadows" screen capture:
So, after investigating changes to Shadow adjustment, I turned my attention to Highlight adjustment. Here's what happened when I increased Highlights by just +1 from "Normal" (from -48 to -47): this 1 point increase blew out the Highlights and raised the Shadows/Blacks significantly.
And this is what happened when I decreased the Highlights by just –1 from "Normal" (from -48 to -49): the Highlights actually brightened slightly:
Finally, when I decreased Highlights by –3 from "Normal" (from -48 to -51): the Highlights blew out entirely with a moderate gain in Blacks. A further decrease in Highlights erred to increase the Blacks/Shadows until around -60, then the Highlights started decreasing again back to "Normal" at around -68, but the Blacks/Shadows were still elevated producing a noisy blue sky. From -68 to -100, the Highlight adjustment continued to behave normally in that it gradually dressed the Highlights into a muddy grey.
Here's the Normal–3 Highlights" capture:
Bizarre, at least to my mind. Perhaps someone in the know can explain what's going on here with respect to these seemingly bizarre behaviours at certain and apparently random thresholds.