Tuesday 23 June 2009

The 14 bit-12 bit debate

A few days ago on one of the forums that i visited there was a debate on image quality and the benefits of 14 bit processing over 12 bit processing, When i bought a Canon 1D MK3 i was blown away by the images that came from the camera-They had extra depth to the colours and needed less processing than the Canon 1D MK2, I put this down to the new 14 bit processing over the previous models 12 bit, Since changing over to Nikon i have changed my mind-why-well the Nikon D3 shoots 14 bit without slowing down the frames per second but the Nikon D300 is affected and goes from 8 FPS to 3FPS when going from 12bit to 14 bit so i always shoot the D300 in 12 bit-have i noticed any difference in IQ-NO, I now believe that the difference that i noticed with the Canon 1D3 was down to a better processor-Digic3 over the previous Digic2, The same with the Nikon, The images straight from the camera are punchy and have good depth to start with and need very little processing to bring any more out of them, There are mathematical equations as to why 14 bit has more colours than 12 bit and that you may get better shadow detail-if you pixel peep then that may be so and if your camera isn't affected by going from 12 bit to 14 bit like the Nikon D300 and D3X then i would advise you to carry on shooting 14 bit-for one thing the file sizes are slightly higher so in theory there should be more detail but put 2 images 12 and 14 bit side by side and tell me which is which-you cant
The top image is 14 bit and below the same image in 12 bit-images unprocessed apart from re size and a small amount of sharpening

Now 2 images as above but 100% crops

I had to shoot at F2.8 so the wheel in the second image is slightly OOF but its the shadow detail we are interested in
This is a real world example and how we tend to view things-with our eyes rather than under a microscope-Try it yourself and see if you can honestly see any difference


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