16 / 32-bit images, PhotoShop, NEF, and my cameras

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by AfroKen, Jan 3, 2010.

  1. AfroKen

    AfroKen TPF Noob!

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    That's a catchy subject header! :D

    I inquired about this before, but would love to have more in-depth information. I was considering upgrading from PhotoShop CS (Mac) to Photoshop CS4, which is about $190 unless you know something I don't. Elements is around $80.

    I've been told that one of the reasons that I should get CS4 instead of Elements is because it has more tools and features that work with 32-bit images. Fair enough.

    However, I noticed that when I used Nikon's Capture NX software to convert my NEF (RAW Nikon files) to TIFF files, I was only offered in which the highest bit-rate was 16 bits.

    So...here's some questions:

    - If the highest bit-rate I have is 16, does it matter whether CS4 can work with 32-bit images?

    - What is the highest bit-rate image I can have if I am shooting with a Nikon D50 or a Leica DLux 4? I can't seem to find this info, possibly going about the search improperly.

    - What is the highest bit-rate image that a Nikon D90 uses? I ask because I'm intending on purchasing a D90 in the next few months.

    If I am not understanding this correctly, which is entirely possible, please either lay it on me or point me to a link. It'll perhaps help me to make up my mind once and for all whether I get Elements or CS4, but more importantly, understand what is going on under the hood.

    Current equipment:

    Mac G5 (pre-Intel) / OS 10.5.6
    Photoshop CS (looking to upgrade to either Elements or CS4, partially dependent on the answer to these questions)
    Nikon D50 DLSR (will most likely upgrade to a D90 in the next few months)
    Leica DLux 4 compact

    Thank you so much! And happy new year!!!
     
  2. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    The RAW files from most DSLRs and compacts are 12 bit files. A few high end DSLRs and many medium format digital cameras produce 14 bit RAW files. Since most editors, like PS, only work in the more conventional 8/16/32/48 bit increments, RAW converters convert the RAW data to either 16 bit or 8 bit files.

    The primary use of the higher bit depths is when combining multiple images to extend the dynamic range (e.g. HDR, ...). There are other times when extensive editing will occur and having the greater bit depth during editing produce smoother gradation even when the image is later converter to 8 bit for printing.
     
  3. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    HERE is part one of a series of videos where 'The Photoshop Guys' talk about CS4 and the benefits of upgrading. It says that it's a 4 part series, but I think it ended up being 5 or 6 parts.
     
  4. AfroKen

    AfroKen TPF Noob!

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    Thank you, Dwig. But what's curious is that I've converted my NEF files to 16-bit TIF files, but the amount of filters and processing available to me is greatly limited. Curiously, I can't even crop. Is this the case with CS4? There's obviously a great disadvantage to 16 bits if I am severely limited with filters and processing.
     
  5. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    That has long been the big problem with trying to use 16bit images in Photoshop. There are somethings you can't do, so you would have to tailor your workflow to a 'before and after' you convert from 16 to 8 bit.

    Also, consider that most printers can only process 8 bit images anyway. I think you can print at 16 bits now, but only with certain printers and maybe only on a Mac...I don't remember for sure.

    I do think that CS4 can do more things in 16 bit, but if I remember correctly, there are still some things that won't work unless you are in 8 bit mode.
     
  6. AfroKen

    AfroKen TPF Noob!

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    Thanks! And also curious is that I cannot seem to be able to convert these 16-bit TIF files into anything that I can work with (PNG, PSD, etc.), so what I'm guessing here is that they are all keeping the 16 bits and not allowing me to process further.

    And unfortunately, I don't see a way to convert these TIFs to 8-bit either.

    Looks like I'll have to go back and re-convert the NEF files to 8-bit TIFs.
     
  7. KmH

    KmH Helping photographers learn to fish Supporting Member

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    Did you look under the Image tab for Mode to convert your TIFFs to 8-bit?

    PSD can handle 16-bit files, but PNG can't.
     
  8. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    I think that this might be one of those things that falls under:
    If you don't know, then you don't need it.

    Sure, 16 bit is technically better than 8 bit, but it's rarely something that you will be able to tell the difference between. So why not just stick with 8 bit and make it easier on ourselves?
    Along those same lines, we know that AdobeRBG is a superior color space to sRGB, but many people just stick with sRGB because it's more universal and makes the workflow smoother.
    To take that idea further...you could also argue that shooting in JPEG rather than RAW is easier.

    So where do we draw the line? If you are going to shoot RAW because it's better...then shouldn't we also edit in 16 bit and use the widest color space that we can? Yes, probably we should. But I think that everyone has to find what works for them and look at the 'big picture' so to speak. Does your photo look great when printed and hanging on the wall? Would someone looking at that picture ask you whether you edited in 16 or 8 bit? ;)
     
  9. AfroKen

    AfroKen TPF Noob!

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    I totally agree with you, and it's that line that I'm trying to determine. I have shot a lot of my images in the highest-resolution JPG and shown it at photo gallery exhibits at 16x20" and it looked great. So I'm just trying to figure out where that fine line is. And part of that is to determine whether the difference in processing between Elements or CS4 really matters that much in this application or not. If I were making posters, it might matter. But for the occasional gallery exhibit and primarily for websites? I don't know. I'm still searching for the answer.

    There are many parallels to recording music. For instance, a lot of people record 24-bit / 96kHz or even 24-bit / 192kHz. But a lot of us choose to record a lot of rock music at 24-bit / 44.1kHz, partially because we ultimately mix down to 44.1kHz, but also because the difference for rock music is marginal. Although there IS a difference, at least with 24/bit / 88.2kHz and beyond. It's just figuring out where that line is for you.
     
  10. Heretotherephoto

    Heretotherephoto TPF Noob!

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    this seems like the right place for this so I'll throw it in. I am new to digital photography. At least the editing sde of it. I have been using GIMP for awhile but find it extremely difficult to work with. I would love photoshop as it seems to be the best but my computer would not support the newer versions and it is quite expensive. To me Elements 8 seems like a really good place to start and really learn about editing before investing is CS4 or Lightroom or one of those fairly pricey programs.
     
  11. AfroKen

    AfroKen TPF Noob!

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    I would definitely agree that Elements seems to do quite a lot for not very much cash. I know how to do a reasonable amount in GIMP but find it cumbersome and sometimes illogical in its layout. I fully realize that could be partially because I'm used to Photoshop, but still.... :D
     
  12. Dwig

    Dwig TPF Noob!

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    All of PS/CS4's core functions will function with 16-bit images. What fails are the bulk of the plugins. The limitations seen in the "Save as..." dialog are not PS's limitation, but the limitations of the various formats. PS/Elements has more limitation than the PS.

    One example is JPEG where there is no such thing as a 16 bit JPEG so the "Save as..." dialog doesn't list JPEG as an option when the current image is 16-bit. The only time PS does a "convert to 8-bit to save" on the fly is when you use "Save for Web and Devices..." ("Save for Web..." in earlier versions).

    BTW, another serious reason you should consider an upgrade to PS/CS4 is that it is the last time you will be able to upgrade from PS/CS. Whe PS/CS5 is released PS/CS owners will not be eligible for the discounted upgrade unless Adobe surprises everyone by changing their upgrade policy. At present PS/CS is the oldest version of PS that is eligible for upgrading to PS/CS4: PS v7 doesn't qualify.
     

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