High Dynamic Range Photos with the FZ28.

I was out wanting to test my FZ28 and learn more about the camera and how to take better photos, when I took the photo below:

F6.3, 1/400s, ISO100

The problem with photos like the above is about dynamic range, basically meaning the camera is unable to see and record the range of colors, brightness and contrast that our eyes can. If you play around with metering modes, or compensate for exposure, you'll either get the sky overexposed (too bright) or the mountain underexposed (too dark) and vice versa. I've read and seen some excellent High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos, and decided to shoot the above in RAW, and to try to get it to look better when I'm back on my PC.

The thing is, I don't like RAW mode very much and SilkyPix isn't helping. The next alternative is to use Adobe's DNG converter as the Camera Raw plug-in does not read FZ28 .RW2 files directly. Using the DNG converter creates a .DNG file that's 3 times the already large .RW2 file, so you can now understand my dislike for RAW files.

That's until I stumbled upon the RAW processing in ACDSee Pro. It's easy to use and it has got this "Light EQ", which basically works like your regular audio graphic equalizer. You drag the settings and be amazed at the results.

The same photo as above but with exaggerated exposure and saturation.

I brightened up dark areas, darken bright areas, increased color temperature and saturation, all with a exaggerated settings to really push what can be done. It's not perfect and if you look closely you'll see it's beginning to get noisy. But this is all done without any HDR softwares, only the RAW processing in ACDSee Pro. Wow! I guess I'm beginning to like RAW mode now.

Same photo with more natural settings.

Not only can RAW processing produces HDR photos, it can also give you more natural looking photos too. The above is about as close as I can get to what I'm seeing with my own eyes. Compare it with the first photo and it looks much better. This just goes to show the amount of possibilities that you can control and play with in RAW.

So, am I all sold on RAW mode and RAW processing ? Well, only when the lighting conditions gets difficult, otherwise I'll stick with JPEG for the moment. Oh, by the way, the whitish part on the left of the photo are actually smoke as somebody's burning something over there.

Catching a Bird with iA.

Noticed a small bird about 3 inches long, and not being very good at handling the FZ28, I put it to Intelligent Automatic (iA) Mode and it defaults to iMacro when catching this frame.

Little Birdie (f4.4, 1/125 s, ISO125)

I love the blurred background and some colors from the flowers, the image is untouched, only resized. The macros that I planned and took multiple shots of, did not turn out well, but when I saw this bird, I just shoot away and got this great shot. Perhaps I should do this more often.

Flower Macros with the FZ28.

One of the first things that most people shoot are macros of flowers, myself included. Why?

  • Everybody agrees that flowers are beautiful, so the chances of shooting a beautiful photo are much increased.
  • Flowers have color, which tends to be attractive and easier to shoot than night shots and potraits.
  • Flowers always pose patiently, for long periods under the sun without ever complaining.
  • They never asked to look at what you have shot and grimaced at the results.
  • Shooting tiny stuffs (macro) almost always brings suprises and is a fascination and discovery in itself.

On the FZ28, there are multiple ways to shoot macros of flowers, in addition to Program AE, Shutter Priority or Manual mode:

Mode Format Focus ISO White Balance Aperture
Intelligent Auto JPEG only Auto, cannot lock Auto Auto Auto
Close Up: Flower JPEG and RAW Auto and manual, can lock Auto Auto Auto
Close Up: Creative Close Up JPEG and RAW Auto and manual, can lock Auto Auto / manual Auto / Manual

When shooting macros of flowers, I want some control in what to focus on, sometimes I may want to focus on the middle of the flower, but if a bug or an insect is at the edge of the petal, I want to be able to focus on that too. I also would like to control Depth of Field (DOF) so that I may want the background to be blurred or otherwise. It would be good to have control over White Balance, so that I can accurately reproduce the color of the flower.

With these requirements, it seems that the best option is to use Close Up Mode: Creative Close Up, because it allows manual Aperture (which let us control DOF), White Balance, Manual Focus and also RAW, should the need arise for post processing. Although I can use Program AE, Shutter Priority or full Manual mode, letting the camera make other decisions like ISO setting in Creative Close Up suits me fine and kudos to Lumix for the ease of use and automation.

F3.2, 1/320 s, ISO100 : Flower Macro with bokeh effect.

The subject above is about 1.5 inch in diameter, pretty small, but I was trying to focus on the yellow center of the flower. My thoughts is that I should have used a slightly bigger aperture and get a little bit more DOF so that the entire flower is sharp. Perhaps I need more practice with the FZ28, so looking forward to more pics in the near future.

Pet Photos - Using FZ28 Scene Mode, PET.

I was out testing my Circular Polarizing Filter when a puppy followed, so I thought what better way to test my FZ28 by turning the mode dial to [SCN] and then selecting PET.

The FZ28 asks me for the pet name, which I did not bother and brushed away. One the LCD screen it says to press the AF/AE Lock button to lock focus on the pet you're trying to shoot, which is great because it's really user friendly interface here on the FZ28. In PET mode, the FZ28 automatically switch off the AF (Auto-Focus) Assist lamp, presumably so as not to scare away pets or birds. It also switch to automatic ISO but limits the ISO up to ISO800.

Stray Puppy (Shutter: 1/250 sec, Aperture: f4.0, ISO: 125)

The above image is cropped to get better composition, and resized to nearly 1/3 of it's original resolution (2304 x 3072 pixels). My wife accidentally set the FZ28 to 7 Megapixels last night, but the results is still awesome. I'm loving the photo and amazed at the level of details, color and sharpness of the FZ28.

I was not able to take more shots of this puppy, in fact I only managed one, because the puppy keeps coming closer wanting to lick my camera. The FZ28 has minimal shutter lag, meaning I was able to take a quick photo and as can be seen, sometimes one photo is enough.

If you wanted to know more about pet photography, give the professionals a visit.

SilkyPix Manual: Is it in English?

Lots of people hate manuals and I do not blame them after quickly going through the SilkyPix manual.

The thing is, I've bought this new FZ28 and it allows me to shoot in RAW, which is great and the supplied RAW converter/processor software is SilkyPix from Ichikawa Soft Laboratory Co., Ltd. It's got an extremely wide range of controls (great) and I've been warned of it's steep learning curve, therefore I attempted to go through the provided help file and manual to get a footing.

To give you an idea of what I have to go through (my annotations in orange):

10.1.9 How to Take Advantage of Dynamic Range

SILKYPIX® Developer Studio 3.0 SE allows you to control "dynamic range" recorded in RAW data. Almost all DSLR cameras have some top margin they can record a little lighter energy of ray than white point because there are the different sensitivity between R, G, and B sensor.

I'm all lost at this point, pun not intended. "Top margin record higher energy of ray than white point?"

It probably should be: Most DSLR can record a wider range of colors beyond the regular white point because...

Dynamic range controller makes the best use of such sensor information, and provides you the function to compress highlight. In highlight area, this function makes it possible to be smooth and emphasis gradation until white point and to keep saturation like as a film.

I would like to think that I'm always smooth without the need for this SilkyPix function.

It should probably be: this function allows you to smoothen and emphasize gradation all the way to white point and closely reproduces film saturation.

However, you cannot restore the gradation if you take a photograph with overexposure. It is easy to overexposure if there is high contrast or much brightness delta in the scene.

It probably should be: It is easy to overexpose an image if there are high contrast or brightness range in a scene.

Then if you take a photograph with a little underexposure, you can record whiter energy than pure white point in the RAW data. And you can resume brightness with "Exposure bias" function and also use this "dynamic range" function.

I hate this "whiter energy than pure white" thingy. What does it mean?

Please try to take a photograph with a little underexposure, and make wealthy highlight expression with this function.

"Make wealthy highlight expression?" How do I do that?

Perhaps: Shoot a photo with slight underexposure to use this function to achieve high dynamic ranges.

Now, for the question of the day: Is this manual in English?

Advice for Ichikawa Soft, it's time to get professional translators otherwise no matter how great your SilkyPix software is, your current manual is a hurdle and an impediment the the success of your software and thus your business.

A New Beginning.

Got my Panasonic Lumix FZ28 from Photo Easycam, Penang at a really good price, strongly recommended. It has more settings than I know how to use at the moment, so I hope this blog will help me learn.