Digital B&W?

jon_k

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Hi,

DSLRs and any digicam can be set in B&W mode. Is there any advantage to this, any extra data stored? Or can you accomplish the same?

I'm thinking it's just a feature there for people who can't post process images. I'm assuming the image is taken by the CCD in color and then some processing software in the firmware desaturates the image. Is this correct?

OR

Do the pixels in the CCD somehow get used to a better potential for generating a B&W image?

I ask this because B&W generated from digital color images just don't look as great as stuff taken from black and white film. Perhaps I'm just not good enough at post processing. I haven't experimented with the B&W option in the camera to see if there's any technical difference.
 

gizmo2071

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Get results 100% better from converting Colour to B&W your self, but I sometimes use B&W setting just because I like to have an idea of how the tones look and I can convert it back to colour in RAW process and then revert back to B&W with my own techniques.
 

Chas

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I ask this because B&W generated from digital color images just don't look as great as stuff taken from black and white film. Perhaps I'm just not good enough at post processing. I haven't experimented with the B&W option in the camera to see if there's any technical difference.
Ouch! I'm about to convert to digital B&W and this is disappointing to hear. Let's hope it's to some extent a post-processing issue ..... Gizmo's post gives one hope, but to what extent can prints from ASA (oops) 100 4X5 film be approximated with a 10 meg digital - maybe it's a silly question and I don't want to hear the answer.
 

ANDS!

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If you know how to use PS - converting images to B&W - DYNAMIC B&W (the default b&w conversion in PS is crap) is a snap.
 

Big Mike

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I agree with gizmo...it's much much better to do the conversion yourself in the post processing stage. My camera, for example, even has options to simulate the effects of different color filters for B&W shooting...but why would I do that when doing it in post gives me the ability to simulate practically any filter effect...to any degree, with extreme ease?

I think it's certainly possible to get outstanding B&W images...but to get the best quality output...requires proper printing equipment. Most printers are not set up for optimum B&W printing.

That being said, digital capture doesn't have the latitude of B&W film and it's hard to beat the look of a good silver halide B&W print.
 

ksmattfish

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Ouch! I'm about to convert to digital B&W and this is disappointing to hear.

If I could show you examples of poorly done or inexperienced traditional BW work would you be disappointed with film? :) Send most beginners into the darkroom, and the stuff they come out with is usually less than top quality. As long as even one photog can figure out high quality digital BW, and I think there are plenty of examples, then anyone can. It's almost all a matter of skills, and the great thing about skills is that anyone with some time can get them if they apply themselves. Having nice gear, software, and printers helps too, but in the end it's mostly about the skills.
 
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jon_k

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At this point I think I agree with everyone here that post-conversion beats the software conversion in-camera.

The best bet seems to shoot raw and postconvert to B&W.

The big question here is digital sensors don't have the great dynamic range of film, especially B&W film. What type of post processing techniques do you guys use to bring out more dynamic range?

The only option I know in photoshop is Image>Adjustments>Black&White

This lets you slide around the brightness fo each color channel (RGBCYMK)

Any other tips?
 

ann

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one thing that hasn't been mentioned. ONe needs to think in black and white , it will make a great difference . Not all color photos convert to beautiful black and white images.

It is not just a matter of converting. ONe needs to understand the tonal values and how they can merge together.
Using all black inks in a printer will be very helpful in producing a more netural black and white inkjet print.

Printers are getting better with providing several shades of gray and black inks to help avoid the orginal problems with using a color printer for black and white.

The paper your using will also make a very big difference in what the final output looks like.
 

Chas

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..but why would I do that when doing it in post gives me the ability to simulate practically any filter effect...to any degree, with extreme ease?
:drool2:........ after this and the other posts (including ann's), I'm feeling much better already.

Lead on, Macduff .....
 

THORHAMMER

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yes correct, even with film you need a filter to bring out the right colors, its no different with digital, just you can apply the color filter afterwards.
 

ksmattfish

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The big question here is digital sensors don't have the great dynamic range of film, especially B&W film. What type of post processing techniques do you guys use to bring out more dynamic range?

It's pretty well accepted that most DSLR sensors now have as much dynamic range as C41 neg film. Traditional process BW film has the potential to have more dynamic range, but if you are just exposing it at the manufacturer's recommended ISO and dropping it off at most labs for automated processing you won't get much more range than C41. To squeeze out that extra range you need to do personal film speed testing, personal development testing, and be exposing and developing for the particular contrast range of each shot. That tends to leave roll film out unless the entire roll is shot in the same lighting conditions. With digital I process each shot individually, just like with sheet film.

In the end prints have less dynamic range potential than BW, C41, E6, or digital, so unless you are scanning the negs and tweaking the files, or hand printing it's difficult to take advantage of the extra dynamic range anyway. Straight machine made lab prints aren't going to get it done.

The big advantage of digital processing (whether from scanned film or digital) is the incredible control and flexibility possible. There are many, many ways to control contrast in software processing. Just by combining them differently I can achieve different results. There are probably many ways that no one has even figured out yet. I haven't seen a BW darkroom book published in the last several decades that's introduced significantly new methods on control and adjustment. When multigrade paper came out that introduced split contrast printing, but even that is old hat now. In the traditional darkroom there are limits to what the chemistry can do, the level of precision possible, and what I am willing to do based on time restraints. It can be just as time consuming in PS, but I can save at any point, and go have dinner or sleep. In the darkroom there are fewer places for setting aside the project and taking a break. I find that in digital processing the major limits are my knowledge and imagination.

Conceivably you could go in and precisely adjust the tonal value of each individual pixel; it might take you a year to do one 8mp photo, but it could be done. In the darkroom multiple exposure masking, unsharp masking, and contrast masking takes all day or even several days. Each of these very powerful darkroom techniques can be done in minutes or hours in Photoshop. I can take advantage of these techniques with any of my digitally processed BW photos (and color too), while they are pretty much restricted to a few 4x5 negs in my traditional darkroom.

I love the ability to easily mask together as many exposures as I want. With my camera on a tripod I can make specific exposures for any particular area of my scene, and then blend them in PS. I can make multiple scans at different exposures from the same neg. I can open up differently processed files from the same raw exposure. I can make various BW conversions using the channel mixer from the same color file, and blend them as I wish. It's pretty easy to create photos that appear to have more dynamic range than I've ever been able to get out of individually processed 4x5 sheet film.
 
I

Iron Flatline

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There is a GREAT software (although offensively expensive) called Exposure from Alien Skin. It runs as a plug-in for Photoshop.

Link to Alien Skin Site

It can emulate something like 60 different film stocks, including 25 well-known and loved B&W films.

They have a free demo you can download and work with for 30 days.
 

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