Archive for April, 2008

Chromatic Errors, and how to get rid of them

Tuesday, April 29th, 2008

The other day a friend dropped by and showed me the latest photos of her trip to Dublin. It was a nice trip with some sunshine, the perfect starting point for good photos. She handed over her point-and-shoot camera, a tiny 3 Megapixel Fuji camera, and I flipped through the images, stopping here and there for a closer look, and admiring some of the places I had been to before (it’s funny how some areas do not change in years). Her images were certainly of a high quality, many of them nicely composed and well exposed.

Then she asked what I would think about Canon’s 40D? I replied that this would definitely help her to create technically better photos, and that it should be a big leap towards better photography for her. I was trying to be polite and said that her pictures already look good given the limitations of her current camera. She looked at me, puzzled, and said: “What do you mean – ‘limitations’? Everyone loves my shots, even when they come from that tiny P&S camera”. I replied that this may be so, but the technical quality of her shots is just, well, pixel crap. Beautiful shots, that can not be enlarged to anything beyond 6″x8″, at least not when expecting high quality prints.

Ah. I shouldn’t have said that. She demanded proof. She did not believe that her photos were really that bad. And I presented her proof by zooming into the photos she had already uploaded to her PC. I told her what to look for (strange color seams, usually in high contrast areas of the picture) and where (usually close to the image borders). When going through image after image on her hard disk, she could not believe what she saw.

Here’s one example from my tiny Sony Cybershot DSC P-72 (which I have trashed recently as I did not use it any longer):

Copenhagen/Denmark, by Mark Zanzig
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Chromatic Errors Example

When looking for those color seams you need to really go close, i.e. at least 100% view in Photoshop (or your image editing software). In this example, you clearly see the yellow border on the left side of the tower, and a purple border on its right side. Also note the dark blue border in the lower left corner of the cutout. Believe me, these borders were not there. Not in Copenhagen, Denmark. Not when I did this shot back in February 2005. And I guess you won’t find these borders today. :-) But you see them in the image, because the lens was really bad, and the software of the camera could not correct the problem (at least not good enough).

But wait – isn’t this just a problem of cheap point-and-shoot cameras? No. The problem appears also with professional equipment. Take a look at another example, a RAW photo file from my Canon 1ds mark II and the beautiful EF 16-35/2.8L wide angle lens:

Munich Nymphenburg Castle
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

Example for Chromatic Error
Close up, showing chromatic errors in the left area of the image

Uh. Can this be true? You spend $$$$ on a professional camera and lens and get such pixel garbage in return? Actually, yes. The physical problems of a 35mm wide angle lens are still visible, even when it is a very good lens, and a very good camera. Also, please remember that the cutout represents just about 0.8% of the total image (133,952 of 16,613,376 pixels), so the problem might only become visible when doing large high-end prints. But anyway, it makes the photo look bad.

But fortunately, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom comes for rescue!

Here’s what to do: import the RAW file to Lightroom, then switch to “Develop” mode. Scroll down for the lens corrections section (on the right hand side), and there you will find the tool that deals with this problem. Quickly, and effortlessly:

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Lens Correction

Just toy around with the controls for Red/Cyan and Blue/Yellow to see the effect. I find that it works best to use the control that matches the color seams in the image, i.e. when you see a red and/or cyan seam, use the Red/Cyan control; when you see a blue and/or yellow seam, you use the Blue/Yellow control.

The result is pretty impressing:

Chromatic Errors corrected by Lightroom

The visible chromatic errors have now been corrected; there are no seams to be seen anywhere in this section. The walls now look as they are in reality: a light grey, with bright white borders and all shades of grey within the windows.

Neat.

Oktoberfest 2008 – six months to go!

Saturday, April 26th, 2008

Just a quick heads up for you guys (and girls) waiting for the 2008 edition of the Oktoberfest to begin: It’s now less than six months away! Hoo-rah!

The fest will open September 20th, so please make sure to read our Oktoberfest FAQ to prepare yourself, then have a nice cold beer (for training purposes only), and enjoy this photo for the duration:

Oktoberfest in Munich
Mark Zanzig/zettpress

This is the view from just below the Bavaria statue on Munich’s Theresienwiese on one of those warm and cozy evenings in September 2007.

I took my tripod to the festival (which is usually not a good idea, as you won’t get in anywhere) and positioned myself between all the tired guests on the stairs leading up to the Bavaria. The idea was to wait until after sunset to catch the twilight. I wanted a crisp, noiseless picture, so I opted for ISO 100. I put up the EF 24-70/2.8L at 70 mm, and manually set the aperture to f/22 and the exposure to 16 seconds. Voilá.

In the picture you can see a lot of funny details, like the guy in the front taking a photo, or the girl in black to the left, who apparently has not moved during the whole time! And then of course the small stands in the middle, who sit like rocks in the sea of people. Too bad that the beerstein on top of the Paulaner tent did rotate so fast, but I guess you can’t have everything.

In any case, I am very much looking forward to this Oktoberfest. I hope you do too.

Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 1.4.1 available

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2008

On March 14th, Adobe released Version 1.4 of Photoshop Lightroom. It turned out that this was a bit too early, as they had to re-call that upgrade just days later in the light of protesting users (the word revolt comes to my mind).

Now they released the improved Version 1.4.1 of the program (please be patient, their download site seems to be seriously overloaded and often unavailable). You can see the official change log at the Lightroom Journal. From looking at the discussions at Adobe’s user-to-user support forum (which is also quite slow to respond) I will think twice before updating to this new version. Headlines like “crashes constantly after update to 1.4.1″ do not provide the confidence that I am looking for. Also that nasty issue with incorrect colors from Canon RAW files is, well, quite nasty.

Adobe put up a link to the public beta of Lightroom Version 2. This is certainly not my cup of tea, but if you have a clean machine that you do not need for your daily production, why not try it? Then again, Adobe’s Tom Hogarty has posted on April 1st (sic!) the list of new features in version 2, and he confirmed in the comments to that post that

like most Adobe products there will be upgrade pricing for Lightroom 2.0 but that has yet to be announced at this point.

Thanks, mate. Maybe it’s just me who does not see the value of those new features. Maybe they will be adding new features to version 2 for the commercial launch. Maybe the update price will be moderate. But I am very certain that I am not going to pay Adobe for that upgrade, not with a list of new features that is so small, and with a buggy 1.x still around. No, I’m not going to be milked by Adobe on Lightroom.

Russian Space Shuttle Buran in Cologne

Thursday, April 10th, 2008

My colleague and friend Oliver Staack of Lichtbildwerk sent me a couple of shots of the Russian Space Shuttle Buran as it got loaded onto a freighter in Cologne, Germany, a few days back. The shuttle was on its long way to the Technical Museum of Speyer, where it will be on display next to a full-size Boing 747 Jumbo Jet, and other 70+ aircraft and helicopters.

Seeing this huge object (half plane, half rocket) on the Rhine river is certainly a rare sight and a good opportunity for some nice shots, even for a well-seasoned press photographer. In the twilight of the approaching sunset, Oliver took a long lense and captured the big bird with the Cologne Dome, the traditional landmark of the city, in the back.

Space Shuttle Buran in Cologne
Oliver Staack/Lichtbildwerk

Buran Shuttle in Cologne Germany
Oliver Staack/Lichtbildwerk

Space Shuttle on Rhine
Oliver Staack/Lichtbildwerk

I know Oliver for ages, really. He is passionate about photography (and filming), and he has been working as freelancer in the Cologne area for almost two decades by now, covering The Netherlands, Belgium, and the rest of Europe. Please feel free to contact him anytime with suitable photo assignments.

Thanks, Oliver for sharing.