Saturday, December 29, 2012

First test results

Today was a nice weather and I walked a little with the new camera. Specifically I wanted to try HDR feature and high ISO astro shots.

Well, unfortunately handheld HDR shots do not really give you any usable image quality, even using a stabilized lens at 12mm. What is acceptable for iPhone is a no-go for a 1000+$ camera. And if you do invest time to set up a tripod why not just spend a little more to post-process from RAW on a computer? The win in flexibility and image quality is enormous. Good news however is that RAW files do keep a plenty of dynamic range: pseudo-HDR from a single RAW file is very well possible.

The above image is shot in RAW and processed in Lightroom 4.3 (click on the image to see larger). Considering that the sun is in the frame the performance is pretty amazing.

Continuing with the positives I'm really happy with the high ISO performance of the camera.

Here is a 100% crop from the second image.

RAW f2.8 13" at ISO2500, no noise reduction applied.

What I see:

  • No signs of chroma noise - just nice film-like luminance grain.
  • No banding issues that plagued GH1 (and so far I know also GH2) at longer shutter speeds and high ISO.
  • Absolutely usable up to ISO3200.
  • Since it is a full moon today I didn't really had a chance to test ISO6400. Though this will definitely require some de-noising, with downscaling to 1080p it may still be usable for timelapse.

As I said I'm pretty happy with the performance.

By the way, there is "one more thing" that makes this camera the best camera for astro photography I ever used: switching on the Constant Preview setting under Custom settings pane allows you to live preview how the current aperture and shutter speed affect the image. For astro photography it means that you finally can frame your shot without guessing by the completely dark viewfinder what is going to be in frame. It can take up to the shutter speed time until everything is completely settled but it is still much faster than making a test shot and then try to move the camera blindly to get the framing.

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