Discussion Forum Leica S System S2 Maximizing High ISO Performance on the Leica S2
  • #669
    Josh Lehrer

    For those of you curious about how the Leica S2 performs at various ISO settings, and how to get the most out of the files in Adobe Lightroom, check out this new article:

    Maximizing High ISO Performance on the Leica S2

  • #671
    Mark Gowin

    Thank you for the article Josh. I appreciate the effort and the sample images look very good. However, they were all taken in fat light where the only reason to increase ISO is to get even higher shutter speeds. I am anxious to see how well method this works in poor light where you are increasing ISO just to get near hand holdable shutter speeds. I am afraid there are limited situations where this method will save an image, but I am happy to get all the extra I can out of the S2.

  • #673
    Josh Lehrer

    Mark, thank you for the feedback. What I wanted to demonstrated was the objective ISO performance of the S2 with a proper exposure. The performance would be the same in low light, since exposure in this scenario is linear. Of course underexposure situations in order to squeeze some extra exposure out of the sensor would be a different situation altogether, and perhaps could be material for another article!

  • #693
    Stuart Richardson

    Thanks for the work and the samples Josh. It was nice to see your sharpening technique as well. It's funny how different they can be. For example, with the M9 (and probably eventually the S2) I tend to rely on high masking, minimal radius and detail, but a higher level on the sharpening slider. It's more of an edge sharpening effect than overall sharpening, as the files themselves are already very sharp. Your work with luminance noise reduction has also led me to consider trying it — in the past I have avoided it because I usually feel like the trade off in detail loss is not worth the lower noise, but here it seems to be working very well. I will say too, that the S2 at a virtual 800 looks brilliant.

    I am interested in another situation though — long exposure. You did some very nice long-exposure shots with the 350mm Superachromat. How do you find the S2 does in terms of noise in long exposure? I think the M9 did a rather nice job, but it would be great if the S2 could do it as well. I would be more likely to use the S2 in a long exposure situation than in a low-light handheld situation (though it is nice to have the capability).
    For example, this is a one minute exposure with the M9, lit only by moonlight:

    This one was 177 seconds! I needed a flashlight to focus, that's for sure. What is the upper limit of the S2 now? I know it was recently lengthened…

    And you still get some detail…noise is not bad. This was shot at f/1.4, and there is probably slight motion from the wind etc which leads to softening.

    We only get about 3-4 hours of light a day in the winter here, so long exposure makes a difference! The M9 has great color in long exposures, which is something that usually suffers. I was surprised how good it was. I normally use the D3 for this, but since I am selling the Nikon kit to build funds for the S2, it would be nice if the S2 could replace it!

  • #695
    David Farkas

    Stuart Richardson;425 wrote: Thanks for the work and the samples Josh. It was nice to see your sharpening technique as well. It's funny how different they can be. For example, with the M9 (and probably eventually the S2) I tend to rely on high masking, minimal radius and detail, but a higher level on the sharpening slider. It's more of an edge sharpening effect than overall sharpening, as the files themselves are already very sharp. Your work with luminance noise reduction has also led me to consider trying it — in the past I have avoided it because I usually feel like the trade off in detail loss is not worth the lower noise, but here it seems to be working very well. I will say too, that the S2 at a virtual 800 looks brilliant.

    Stuart,

    We arrived at these sharpening settings based on recommendations from a senior developer at Adobe and our own in-house testing. He works in the Lightroom team and is responsible for optimizing processing for the S2 and M9. In Lightroom 3, the sharpening algorithms were revised so. Basically, the new sharpening is a blend of Unsharp Mask (edge sharpening) and Smart Sharpen (deconvolution sharpening). If the detail slider is at 0, the algorithm uses 100% Unsharp Mask. If the detail slider is at 100, 100% Smart Sharpen is used. At a setting of 50, there is a 50/50 split. You get the idea. This is why we use a setting of 60-70 for detail.

    I am interested in another situation though — long exposure. You did some very nice long-exposure shots with the 350mm Superachromat. How do you find the S2 does in terms of noise in long exposure? I think the M9 did a rather nice job, but it would be great if the S2 could do it as well. I would be more likely to use the S2 in a long exposure situation than in a low-light handheld situation (though it is nice to have the capability).

    What is the upper limit of the S2 now? I know it was recently lengthened…

    I'm sure we will be doing some long exposure testing in due course. I have personally had excellent results with shots up to 32 seconds (which is all I ever seem to need).

    Long exposure time was increased in a previous firmware update from 32 seconds to 126 seconds.

    David

  • #698
    Stuart Richardson

    Very interesting! I am sharpening purely on a visual basis, and for a print based workflow. One of the great things about lightroom is how by holding down the option button while moving the sliders, they give you a visual cue as to how the sharpening is being applied. This helps you dial it in, and then you can fine tune it using the regular adjustments. I have found that when using the detail slider, it accentuates the grain quite a bit more than I generally like and sometimes imparts a texture that I find unnatural. I have had the same qualms about smart sharpen, so it all makes sense to me now! Still, it is very nice to know how it all works.

  • #709
    Pete Walentin

    Hi Josh,

    Thanks for the effort and for sharing the presets. I used the presets on some shots made in a church and the results are very satisfying.

  • #722
    Mark Gowin

    Ok Josh, I am now a believer that ISO 1250 can be used with excellent results – at least in certain conditions. The photo below and the associate crop was taken at ISO 1250 with 1/2 stop over exposure. I processed the image as normal but I did not do any noise reduction. I am shocked at just how good ISO 1250 is in good light.

    Oh by the way, the photo was taken with the S2 and a Pentax 400mm ED lens via adapter

    Crop

  • #723
    Mark Gowin

    One might ask themselves, why use ISO 1250 in good lighting condition such as those in the photo I posted above. The answer is shutter speed, but to be honest I would have never considered using ISO 1250 just to gain a little bit of shutter speed until Josh posted his article.

    In the photo above, I was using a 400mm lens, but I was also using a tripod with the lens locked down and 2 second self timer which fires mirror up at the beginning of the timer. At ISO 160 I had a shutter speed of around 1/125 sec which should be acceptable for this setup. However, there was an almost imperceptible breeze causing the grass to move a small amount. I shot a few frames at ISO 160 and then decided to try out Josh's method and bumped ISO to 1250. I am glad I did. The ISO 160 photos are not sharp due to the small movement in the grass. however, the ISO 1250 photo turned out pretty good due to the shutter speed increase to around 1/1000 sec. (Note: The shutter speeds I stated are from memory and I will verify when I get back to my computer. I don't know of a way to check exif data of an embedded image on the iPad.)

  • #724
    Josh Lehrer

    Mark, nice shot! It really is amazing what the S2 is capable of at ISO1250. I am also very pleased to see such nice results from the Pentax 400mm.

  • #725
    David Farkas

    Wow. VERY impressive shot, Mark. Beyond the fact that ISO 1250 looks so good, the picture is really beautiful. What aperture did you use on the 400mm? The bokeh is really nice.

  • #726
    Mark Gowin

    Thank you for the compliments on the photo. It's not the sort of subject one thinks of when shooting a 400mm, but I had walked out in a field a few hundred yards in hopes of capturing a photo of a doe and her very young fawn. I lost track of the doe and fawn and missed the photo I set out for. On the walk back to the car, I liked how the grass was backlit with the dew sparkling and figured the 400mm would be good as it would compress the layers of grass. I can't remember the aperture for sure, but I assume it was f8.0 as that it what I used most with that lens. The grass was rather close so that is probably why the bokeh looks so good (of course in combination with the lens design).

  • #728
    David K

    Lovely shot Mark and very impressive detail on the crop. That Pentax 400mm looks like a winner to me.

  • #729
    Mark Gowin

    Thank you for the compliment David. I am working on a blog post about my time with the Pentax 400mm. It has been an interesting experience. Stay tuned.

  • #730
    Mark Gowin

    Here is another ISO 1250 photo and associated crop. This time the photo includes shadows where noise is most visible. As with the previous photo, this one is process as normal, but I did not do any noise reduction. Here the noise is a bit more evident in the shadow of the cave.

    The photo is of a statue of Jack Daniels in front of THE cave spring which supplies all of the water used to make Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey. We had a good rain just before our tour which, thankfully, cooled things down a bit. That cool down resulted in little bit of fog on top of the spring water. I wish it were more visible in the photo. Too bad we weren't given much time for photos, but I understand, there were a lot of people and they had to keep the tours moving.

    This photo was taken with the 35mm, ISO 1250, 1/90 sec at f5.6. For comparison, I did another photo (not shown here) at ISO 160 which turned out to be at 1/45 sec at f2.5. There was a little bit of motion blur evident at 100% pixel peeping so the increased shutter speed from using ISO 1250 was worth it.

  • #732
    Mark Gowin

    Hmmm! Something doesn't look right with the crop above – it isn't as sharp as it appeared in LR. I guess it doesn't matter much since the point of the post was to show the ISO performance. Note there is definitely more visible noise in the shadows.

  • #733
    Mark Gowin

    I figured out part of the problem with the photo of Jack Daniels. Instead of shooting at +0.5 EV I shot at -0.5 EV.

    Here is another photo taken the same day along with two crops (bright and shadow). This photo is much better regarding noise. Interesting trivia – Chattanooga, TN is home to the very first Coca Cola bottling company.

    S2 and S 35mm lens, ISO 1250, +0.5 EV, f8.0, 1/250 sec

  • #743
    David Farkas

    Mark Gowin;466 wrote: I figured out part of the problem with the photo of Jack Daniels. Instead of shooting at +0.5 EV I shot at -0.5 EV.

    Here is another photo taken the same day along with two crops (bright and shadow). This photo is much better regarding noise. Interesting trivia – Chattanooga, TN is home to the very first Coca Cola bottling company.

    S2 and S 35mm lens, ISO 1250, +0.5 EV, f8.0, 1/250 sec

    What a difference a slight overexposure vs a slight underexposure makes!

    This one looks a lot better. Thanks for clarifying.

  • #744
    Jack MacD

    I was shooting some portraits in the deep shade with another photographer last weekend. Handheld, I had to go to 1250 to keep camera shake out of a 120mm lens. He was shooting another camera and he was amazed at what the S2 could do. He also loved the simplicity of the S controls versus his camera. The only control he missed was a dial that could reduce the price of excellence.

    The first shot is the Leica, the one with the lamp, the second is my friend's. Mine is with the Dale preset applied, but I had not yet read about the half stop overexposure and couldn't have done it anyway without going to 1/45th. Thanks for the presets.

    OK, the keepers from this shoot were not shot in deep shade, and one keeper is shown elsewhere. My friend wanted to try deep shade, and I followed. Had I not been able to go to 1250 I would have had too much camera shake. Frankly, from this work, I decided that 1/60 is about what I can handhold the 120mm in worst case. BTW, normally I prefer to play it safe at 1/500th. As they say, better to give up perfect IQ to avoid camera shake.

    Thanks to David for encouraging me months ago not to avoid 1250, but to avoid camera shake. So far LR cannot correct for camera shake in post.

    Attached files

  • #746
    Mark Gowin

    For some reason the color doesn't look right on the above photos – at least they are not similar to what they look like in LR3. The colors are more muted and the red is more orangish above versus in LR3. I verified that I exported to sRGB so that isn't the problem.

  • #747
    Mark Gowin

    Hi Jack, did you do any noise reduction on your photo? The noise doesn't look to bad. Also, I am very impressed with your hand holding capability with the 120m at 1/60 sec.

  • #753
    Jack MacD

    Mark,
    The only noise reduction was via the Dale S2 presets for 1250.
    Had I wanted to use that shot, I might have played with it a bit more, but I liked what the preset did this time.

    Regarding hand holding, I thought I didn't have much more movement than the friend's shot at 1/400th, so thanks for the compliment. I did one shot at 1/25th instead of 1/60 and you can see plenty of camera movement then. Photo attached. That overexposure allowed me to use the preset as suggested, but 1/25 was too slow.
    Hand holding would have been better with something to brace against. Frankly, I was shooting others locations earlier some with my battery powered studio strobes at 160.
    The photographer friend is a professional wedding photographer and he prefers reflectors which is fine if you have an assistant. In this informal shoot for fun, we were each other's assistant. He was moving around pretty fast after we got our initial shots.

    Attached files

  • #757
    Mark Gowin

    Jack, thank you for the explanation and thanks for posting the 1/25 sec shot. I agree with you, the 1/60 sec shot is much better. Frankly, I probably wouldn't have even tried the 1/60 sec shot hand held. It is good to have my eyes opened to other possibilities.

  • #758
    Mark Gowin

    I went out again today and intentionally used ISO 1250 some more to get a better feel of where it works and where it doesn't. I was using a third party lens today and, as a result, was shooting in full manual mode. I was shooting a buck, got caught up in the moment and forgot to adjust the exposure. The resulting photo was severely over exposed. However, I thought it was kind of interesting so I thought I would post it just for fun.

    S2, Pentax 400mm ED, ISO 1250, f8.0 (?), and exposure reduced 4 full stops in LR3

  • #795
    Andrew

    Josh,

    Could those presets be used or adapted for use in PS CS5?

    Thanks.

    Andrew

  • #796
    Josh Lehrer

    Andrew:

    The Lightroom preset cannot be directly imported into Adobe Camera Raw, but the settings are identical, so it would be simple to create a Camera Raw preset using the same settings that are used in my Lightroom presets.

  • #832
    Nick Rains

    Josh

    David Farkas suggested I look at this forum after I posted an article on Luminous Landscape about the S2 as a travel camera. I have a question…

    The tone curve in your presets tends to kill the shadow detail in my high ISO images – what is there a reason for this change? I can see no benefit. My ISO640 images look better without the tone curve adjustment in your preset, although I have been reading with interest about the sharpening settings you use, especially if they are based on liaison with Adobe.

    Cheers

  • #835
    Josh Lehrer

    Nick:

    Great to have you as part of Red Dot! I will agree that my S2 presets have some added shadow contrast, this reflects both my preference for a bit of extra contrast and the reduction of the “blacks” slider in Lightroom to 2, which will inherently flatten out the image. Of course I provide these presets as a starting point not as a requirement, and I am always interested in hearing about how they can be modified and enhanced.

    Feel free to share this preset, the forum allows you to upload Lightroom Template Files (.lrtemplate) for others to download. Use the “Manage Attachments” button and select the file you want to upload.

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