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A digital camera for black & white?

June 11, 2007

There has been some interesting news for black & white enthusiasts, like me…

A significant problem to face with modern digital cameras is their limited dynamic range compared with what can be achieved by B&W film. Depending of course on what aesthetic result someone aims and is satisfied with, I believe that film is better suited for B&W photography, as it could capture a wider tonal range. Especially in the area of highlights, there is always the additional risk that any over-exposure would result to unrecoverable detail (which unlike with the case of negative film, we could not hope to regain by the process of ‘burning’ in the dark room).

So, it is welcoming news to read in an article by Steven Hynes in ‘Black & White Photography‘ (issue 73, June 2007) that expanding the dynamic range is now the aim of the digital industry, after the ‘megapixel war’ of higher resolution which we have all witnessed lately.

In fact, S. Hynes reports on the new Fujifilm S5 Pro, (a Nikon D200-based model), which is equipped with a new sensor and seems able to record more highlight detail. Fujifilm claims to extend dynamic range by two stops. Although the reviewer found in his tests that detail was held for about an additional 1.3EV, this dynamic range extension and also the overall darkening of the top third of the highlight areas made him conclude positively on this model.

Note, that as he adds, full frame digital SLR sensors might match the S5 in the captured dynamic range; yet, the latter is now more affordable.

On the other side, reading other reviews in the net, such as in Ephotozine, we come across tests which claim less detail for landscapes and some -though controlled- noise throughout all ISO numbers. The review there concludes, that in comparison with the Nikon D200, the S5 has the edge on portraiture and challenging light conditions, emphasising it then more as a tool for marriage photographers (i.e. shoting inside churches with strong window lights, combinations of dark areas and strong sunlight, white bride dresses, etc).

Interesting, you might say, but there isn’t yet one camera for everything.. the ideal camera! Nevertheless, it seems that the myth and search for it continues…

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