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SportsShooter.com: Member Message Board

D2H Good News or Bad News
Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 11:45 AM on 12.31.03
->> I just finished reading the article “D2H Good News or Bad News”. I’ve been totally digital since 1998, starting with the NC2000. If you ever shot with that dog, you know how bad – bad can be. At first the D2H seemed bad, but with a little tweeking it seems very good.

I have been shooting the D2H for just about six weeks now. At first, I too loved the feel of the camera. I was less then pleased with the image quality. Even at 200 iso, the camera seemed to have more noise then I expected to see. Between 400 and 800, the noise looked even worse.

The first thing I noticed was that the noise had a very unpleasant quality too it. It wasn’t simply that there was more noise, I’m not sure that there even is more noise, but as mentioned in the article the characteristics of the noise was what troubled me.

The worst of the noise I could put into two categories. The first was color shifts in the transition areas between image and shadow and in darker areas of the photo. The noise appears “clumpy” for lack of a better word and it is associated with color shifts (mostly yellow, brown and green) in areas that should be neutral to black.

The second category was in dark colored clothing, most notable under tungsten lighting. The images would shift toward purple and also have a clumpy quality (That ugly blue gamma noise). I had seen that before, it was most likely IR light. While the camera should have an IR filter above the CCD (LBCAST) it was clear to me at first glance that the IR filter wasn’t doing its job.

I discussed the issues with Nikon, both their technical people and the head of NPS. The answers I received were not much help. So I did a long series of tests, with the intent of passing the results on to the people I was dealing with at Nikon.

During these tests, I compared the noise quality of the D2H with the D1H and D100.

First thing I did was to test the IR issue. Since I had seen that before with the NC2000, I knew what it was and how to fix it. I dug out an old hot mirror filter, found a pair of black slacks and some other clothes that should be rich in IR reflectivity (or IR luminescence) and shot away. Sure enough, the D2H’s IR filter was not doing its job.

As you can see in this example:
http://www.edbetz.com/HMSTB.jpg

Full 100% crop here:
http://www.edbetz.com/HMSBS.jpg

Note that the image shows a clear purple shift without a hot mirror filter.
On a technical level:
IR light is at the extreme left of the spectrum near blue, over at 800+ nanometers (in the near IR part of the spectrum.) The camera's sensor can not tell this false blue from real blue, so it shows up in the blue channel. Thus filtering out the IR would cut this 'false' blue out, removing the purple cast (purple=blue+red) from your photos, and lowering the intensity of the blue channel.

I also shot a Television Remote control (a perfect way to test if the camera is recording IR and how it would look to the sensor.)
That test can be seen here:
http://www.edbetz.com/Remote.jpg

In the test with the Hot mirror filter the image was just plain old black (no reason to show that)

So it was clear, that the cameras hot mirror filter was not doing its job.
All digital cameras today should have a hot mirror filter built in over the CCD/CMOS/LBCAST. In subsequent testing performed by Rob Galbraith, he noted that the Canon cameras showed no IR contamination in the way that the D2H did.

What was of note was that the D1H showed very little sign of this problem. While the Hot Mirror filter did make a difference, it was a very small difference. The D100, however, seemed to suffer from a weaker then expected IR filter and showed some signs of this color shift.

Images with the hot mirror filter in place also looked sharper. This can be explained by the simple fact that IR light focuses at a different place then light in the visible spectrum (Some lenses have an IR focus dot on them – note that it isn’t in the same place as the visible light) So the IR light reaches the sensor and exposes the image (all be it out of focus) thereby producing purpleish clumpy (our of focus) noise.

Having solved that problem, I started looking into the other noise issue. The Brown,Green and Yellow noise in the transition areas between light and dark and in darker areas too.

The problem was, sometimes I’d see it clearly in an image, and at other times I wouldn’t see it at all. Something was changing. Even under a constant light source, the images sometimes looked great and other times looked just full of this noise.

It occurred to me that the camera was trying to render detail in areas well below its dynamic range. In a shadow area that should have been dark, or in dark colored clothing, the camera was boosting the gain in attempt to render detail. Similar shots with the D1H the shadow area might just be clean and dark and with the D2H there was a little more detail, but it was full of noise which left the extra detail unusable.

I started playing with the different Tone Compensation settings. AUTO seemed to produce inconsistent results.

This would explain the fact that some times the images looked fine and other times the images looked awful. The AUTO tone compensation varies (as the name AUTO suggests) from frame to frame. In some frames the tonal range was reduced yielding a much better looking image. In images where I was dealing with a sports player on court and a black background, it seems that the camera “thought” the image had too much contrast, AUTO lowered the contrast and the result was NOISE.

This would explain why some people reported that the camera was very noisy and others reported they didn’t experience that. In a stadium where the seats are illuminated the problem would be less then in an arena like Madison Square Garden where the fans area is several stops darker.

Switching the camera’s Tone Compensation from AUTO to NORMAL made a huge difference.

At a hockey game the other night, a fellow photographer who was also shooting the D2H noted that my images looked much cleaner then his did. After the game I looked at some of his images in Nikon View (where I could see all of the EXIF info)

His images were much worse then mine. Color shifts in the blacks and dark blues and yellow and brown clumpy noise in the background shadow areas.

It was like they were shot with 2 completely different cameras. In looking at the EXIF data I noticed he was still shooting in AUTO. Bright white ice, dark uniforms. BINGO, the camera was looking at those two things and assuming that the contrast was too high. Lowering it (ala AUTO tone compensation).

The difference can be seen here:
http://www.edbetz.com/NS2C.jpg

and here:

http://www.edbetz.com/NS3C.jpg

I think this really explains why some people think that the camera is just awful. Out of the box, the camera has settings that are just not compatible with the type of work many of us do. With the proper settings, the camera yields much better results.

It also seems that if you are underexposed (even at low iso’s), and the camera is set to AUTO tone compensation, you are doomed. Using curves or levels to save the image will only turn the image into a noisy mess. This does not seem to be true when you use the NORMAL tone setting. While the image will have more noise when you try to save it, when set to normal, the color and quality of the noise is much more appealing.

As for the soft focus issue, I have not really experienced that, although I have read much about it from others in other forums. I have found that I like the results with the sharpening turned off in the camera (or at least set to normal NOT AUTO). I prefer to do my own sharpening, thank you, when possible.
 This post is:  Informative (53) | Funny (0) | Huh? (0) | Off Topic (0) | Inappropriate (0) |   Definitions

Rob Kerr, Photographer
Bend | OR | US | Posted: 12:24 PM on 12.31.03
->> Thanks Ed for compiling this. I have not been able to do the comprehensive tests we need with this camera which behaves much differently than previous digital SLR's. Just nailing set-up for me so far has been hit and miss and then the resulting photoshop work has been time consuming. In addition to your findings, I hope other sources like Rob Galbraith and Moose Peterson will help us all make more from this tool.
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Doug Murray, Photographer
West Palm Beach | FL | USA | Posted: 12:28 PM on 12.31.03
->> Ed,

Nice explaination on these issues.

Have you sent Nikon your analysis of the IR issue?
I would be very interested in their response.

Doug
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Charlie Hicks, Photographer
Papillion | NE | USA | Posted: 12:36 PM on 12.31.03
->> Ed - great work! Thanks for taking the time to do all the tests and sharing it with us.

I have noticed the issues related to the Tone Comp. settings. I'm shooting a basketball tournament Fri/Sat and will compare the results with it set to Normal.

I have been looking for the Tiffen 77mm Hot Mirror Filter but haven't found one in stock yet. If you or anyone knows of a source I'd like to get one right away.

Regards,

Charlie
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 12:41 PM on 12.31.03
->> Doug,
Nikon's response was "I passed it on to our engineer who is in Japan as we speak - I'll let you know if we find out anything definative." - That was 2 weeks ago, I guess these things take time.
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 12:42 PM on 12.31.03
->> Charlie,
Didn't I buy a D1 from you years ago - or was that a different Charlie Hicks?
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Jan Langsner, Photographer
Lloyd | AB | Canada | Posted: 1:05 PM on 12.31.03
->> Charlie,

Samys seems to have them in stock. There is also a store in Toronto that has them. Although their price is way out of line. They are a good store that can be trusted though.

http://www.vistek.ca/details/detail_over.asp?eCode=149967&TYPE=&Specs=N&Box...
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Colin Corneau, Photographer
Brandon | MB | Canada | Posted: 1:25 PM on 12.31.03
->> That one post alone just made the price of joining SS more than worth it...many thanks, Ed.

I'd also be curious as to what Nikon has to say with this detailed info.
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Dave Amorde, Photographer
Lake Forest | CA | USA | Posted: 1:48 PM on 12.31.03
->> Ed, YOU ROCK!!
That silence you hear is me, no longer banging my head against the wall. I hope Nikon sends you a few freebies. Perhaps Tiffen should, too. :-)
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Charlie Hicks, Photographer
Papillion | NE | USA | Posted: 2:39 PM on 12.31.03
->> Ed:

Thanks for the note on the filter. I'll let you know.

Yes - you bought my D1 about 4 years ago??

Still want to get up there and shoot with you sometime :)

Happy New Year.

Charlie
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Neal Vaughan, Photographer
St. Joseph | MI | USA | Posted: 3:17 PM on 12.31.03
->> What a fantastic post. Seems to explain a hell of a lot. Thank you.
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 4:20 PM on 12.31.03
->> Thanks guys for the kind words.

I've continued testing the tone compensation settings in different kinds of light and in different situations. It seems that under some situations, Low might be better (a very limited number of situations so far). When I've done a range of different environments and light sources I'll post something else.
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Jim Owens, Photographer
Cincinnati | OH | usa | Posted: 4:39 PM on 12.31.03
->> Thanks for all the hard work, Ed. I've been keeping up with this issue in Rob Galbraith's site too.
It will be interesting, to say the least, how Nikon handles this especially when they come out with the competitor to the EOS 1DS.
I'll be converting to digital next year ['04] and like many of you, I have much invested in Nikon already.
Thanks again,
Jim
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Colin Corneau, Photographer
Brandon | MB | Canada | Posted: 5:37 PM on 12.31.03
->> Seems to me Sportsshooter carries a great deal of credibility that companies like Nikon would do well to heed..given the amount and calibre of members as well as detailed work like what Ed has done.

Sportsshooter -- information, fellowship, and now (maybe) advocacy...?

All the best, Colin
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Gerald H. Ling, Student/Intern, Photo Editor
Amherst | MA | USA | Posted: 9:15 PM on 12.31.03
->> I concure with Ed. However, I am happy with the images from the D2H even without the hot mirror filter. These are my settings:

In camera:

Format: JPEG (most of the time)
Tone: Low
Sharpening: None
Color Space: Adobe RGB (Mode II)
White Balance: Auto, flash, Kelvin scale, preset (in order of the most used first)
Hue: Zero

Photoshop:

USM: 200%, 0.9, 3 (most of the time or as I see fit)
Levels and curves adjusted as I see fit.

Don't know if this info is of any use but for those who are lost and don't know where to start, here you go.
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 6:56 PM on 01.02.04
->> Gerald,
It's not that the Hot Mirror filter is a must for every photo. There will come a time, where you will wish you had one. Some fabrics and dyes just reflect lots of IR and some light sources are full of IR. When the combo is just right, you'll get bright purple. I think you'll also see improved skin tones (some peoples faces just seem to reflect/emmit IR and it looks red and blotchy).
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Gerald H. Ling, Student/Intern, Photo Editor
Amherst | MA | USA | Posted: 8:00 PM on 01.02.04
->> Ah,

Ed, I stand corrected in my last statement. I didn't mean to imply that the hot mirror filter was unnecessary. And I do agree based on the amount of time you spent testing the camera that I may/will wish I had such a filter on. It does stink that such a modern camera still requires "extra" work to get ideal results, though, I am not bothered that I have to adjust my workflow from the D1 series cameras at all. I have yet to come across the color problem and when I do, I'll get the hot mirror filter as I deem necessary to remedy it.

P/s: Thanks for all your posts Ed. They've been very educational and is much appreciated.
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Ingelbert Lievaart II, Photographer
London | ON | Canada | Posted: 5:13 AM on 01.03.04
->> Solution: Shoot Canon!
 This post is:  Informative (1) | Funny (1) | Huh? (0) | Off Topic (1) | Inappropriate (6) |   Definitions

Chris Garner, Photographer
Kalamazoo | MI | USA | Posted: 9:57 AM on 01.03.04
->> Never!
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 12:36 PM on 01.03.04
->> Just a correction. I stated that IR light is at the extreme left of the spectrum near blue, over at 800+ nanometers. Of corse that should read extream right of the spectrum near red (UV is at the other end near blue). Thanks to the 20 or so people who wrote me to mention this. My bad! I never could tell my left from my right! It is at +800nm (give or take a few dozen nanometers).
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Dave Kennedy, Photographer
Nanuet | NY | US | Posted: 2:05 AM on 01.05.04
->> Ed, this is a great post and all the conversations we have had recently about this camera and seeing what you have done along the way with tweeking the images have made me think this camera isn't such a clunker after all.Now if you could just quiet your camera down so i didn't have to hear it rattling off frame after frame when we're shooting at the Garden together...(and me with my slow D1h)...
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Dave Kennedy, Photographer
Nanuet | NY | US | Posted: 11:50 PM on 01.30.04
->> And after all that...Ed just switched to Canon!!!!!!
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 12:06 AM on 01.31.04
->> Well after using my D2h for around two weeks I have to say that images I were producing with the d1h were much better. The D2H is much noisier and the colors can be wacky sometimes. I hope nikon straightens this out with firmware.

I have been a die hard canon shooter the last 7 years and only switched because the paper I work for provided all the gear and I could not talk the old timers into switching to canon and now they announce the 1D MKII, man I wish we switched. If I am stuck with this camera for the next 3-4 years I will be bummed.

With all that being said I love shooting with it. It handles like a dream and feels good in my hand. AF works good and 8fps is wild. It is just the image quality I have my beef with and when it comes down to it that is what really counts.
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 12:14 AM on 01.31.04
->> Well thanks Dave, I was thinking of waiting a few days to see how it went.

There were several reasons I decided to switch from Nikon to Canon, but I stand by my remarks about the Nikon D2H. It's a solid camera, and im many ways it is slightly ahead and mostly equal to the Canon 1D. Truth is, one of the reasons I switched was because of the total lack of communication from some at Nikon. I will say, I am going to miss their service department, who, for most of the past decade, treated me so well. They are the heart and soul of the company, it is a shame that the brain of the company doesn't treat thier customers as well as the service department has treated me for so long.
After the switch is complete, and I've gotten comfortable with my new gear, I'll post a comparison of the two systems, and what I have found in switching, not from the perspective of wanting to be right or having made the best decision- because God knows I'm not sure I have yet, or putting any system down, but just my feelings of what I've found to be better and what seems to me to be worse. I think that might be helpful to people who are on the fence one way or the other. Nikon isn't dead yet (although the buzzards seem to be swarming about) and as of tonight, I can't say I'm giddy about having switched. It's just too soon to comment.
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Ed Betz, Photographer
Nesconset | NY | USA | Posted: 12:18 AM on 01.31.04
->> Paul,
The first week or so I had that feeling about my D2H, but after I changed some of my settings and stuff, I can say, my D1H became a lens holder. If you've tried what I've mentioned, and your still not getting great results, get in touch with me. I'll bet I can help.
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David Lane, Photographer
Harrison | TN | USA | Posted: 12:44 AM on 01.31.04
->> Ed, are you going to get rid of the hot mirror filters? If so, I would like a shot at them. Thanks!
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Paul W Gillespie, Photographer
Annapolis | MD | USA | Posted: 10:33 AM on 01.31.04
->> Thanks Ed, I did try changing some of the settings after day one with the camera and it helped a little but the images are no where near what I think they should be. As for the hot mirror filters I doubt my paper is going to foot the bill to buy them for 5 shooters for all their lenses. I will keep at it.

As for your switch to Canon congratulations you will not be disappointed. They are a great company and CPS is fantastic IMO.
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Mike Leakey, Photographer
Noblesville | IN | USA | Posted: 10:37 AM on 01.31.04
->> Ed, I look forward to your comments about the switch. I am one of those fence sitters myself. It's very expensive to make an equipment switch and I want to give Nikon a chance. Your posts on the D2H have been very helpful and I'm sure your feedback on a switch to Canon will likewise be worth listening to.
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Thread Title: D2H Good News or Bad News
Thread Started By: Ed Betz
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