It’s all subjective

Due to a rather unfortunate discovery reported in a previous post I’ve had cause to drag out the GX20 and start playing with it again. (The Samsung GX20 that’d be.)

The mournfulness is occasioned by a number of things…

First there’s the whole “bugger, my fave cam’s fallen ill” sorta thing that’s left me annoyed and depressed in equal measure (though prob’ly a bit more depressed than annoyed).
And I haven’t yet reached the optimistic stage of assuming all can be made well again… I’m still in the doom & gloom (“aargh, I might as well just top meself now”) stage at the mo’.

Then there’s this huge “thing” I have about the GX20.

First, there’s those massive file sizes that cause my normal pic-processing machine to groan in agony and exhaustion. (Hmm… p’raps I should think about bunging in some more RAM. Damn. That’s another expense I don’t need!)

Despondency deepened by recollections of the colour issues I had when I first acquired the 20.
I think I’d just about got the issue resolved but its so long ago now I’m not entirely certain.

Of course, I could always press the Canon back into service. But the 400D vs the GX20? No contest far as I’m concerned.

So drag the beast out of storage and start having a play (not terribly enthusiastically, I have to admit).

“Might be an idea”, thinks I, “if I do a few sort of sky test shots” (cos, as I seem to recollect, ‘t’were sky colours that caused the greatest problem).
Of course, what I should have done was wait until full daylight (and hopefully a bright sunny day) but, once seized by the idea, well, it had to be then and there.
Which “then and there” was about half-six in the morning on what was shaping up to be a bit of an overcast day. In fact, it even began to spot with rain whilst I was out “doing my stuff”.

Anyway, the whole point of the session was a) to see what the colour rendition was like straight off-camera; and b) to process the same pics on different machines for comparison purposes, the thought being that maybe I could get away with using my more powerful machine (with a whopping 4Gb of RAM) to process the files rather than my customary machine with its pitiful 512Mb of RAM. And finally c), having reluctantly accepted that I’m likely gonna be stuck with using the GX20 for the immediately forseeable future, what’re the chances of being able to produce pics that are at least half-way acceptable? (That being the principal motivation of course.)

The real issue being the way different machines appear to render colours differently, seemingly no matter how much one tweaks the graphics properties.
I think I may have referred to this before (in fact, I know damn well I have) and finally come to the conclusion that all talk of colour consistency on the Web is a load of cobblers.
At the end of the day its all bloody subjective! Coloured by how the individual has their machine set up (yes, the pun’s intended).

Now my approach in processing these same pics on different machines was not to try to get them all looking identical but rather, focussing on one batch at a time, attempt to get them to reproduce the scene as closely as possible colour-wise as I remembered it.

I ran the test with three different machines, and what I actually ended up with was three completely different colour versions of the same scene. How totally bizarre. So which one’s right, if any? I’ll leave it to you to judge. Perhaps the only real question is, which one looks most “natural” (if any)?

Let’s start off then with a JPEG developed straight from the original RAW file. (I’d like to be able to say its completely unprocessed but I can’t cos it turned out that all the shots appeared somewhat underexposed (on “normal” camera settings so this has had one stop of exposure compensation applied. Oh, and… um… “straightened” a tad cos it seems I wasn’t holding the camera totally straight. But that’s the only “tinkering”).
So, this first one was output using the ACR (4.4 I think) profile…

GX20 sky colour test unp _G201237

and this identical one output using the embedded profile…

GX20 sky colour test unp emb _G201237

Now we come to the shots that I’ve messed around with (in each case principally tone adjustments, noise reduction and some sharpening) on the three different machines. One of these machines is supposedly “colour balanced”. Hmm.

GX20 sky colour test FS215B _G201237

GX20 sky colour test 7110 _G201237

GX20 sky colour test R510 _G201237

More examples in the dedicated Flickr set.
(Tip: in the set they seem to display in a fairly random order, whereas in the photostream itself they actually display in a more organised fashion… mainly cos I edited the “upload times” to get them to do just that!)

About fotdmike

Occasional photographer; occasional writer/blogger; occasional activist; occasional computer-geek. Bit of a fool really.
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5 Responses to It’s all subjective

  1. Tam says:

    i like the third photo, the one titled…GX20 sky colour test FS215B _G201237.

    • fotdmike says:

      Bizarre, isn’t it? And I can’t even say which one is “correct”, or most “accurate”. For it all depends which machine I’m using to look at them with. I find the whole thing of “colour consistency” and related matters (as they apply to the Web at least) incredibly frustrating.

  2. forkboy says:

    A rather large variation in all matters colour-related. I imagine it does leave one questioning the point of it all considering the markedly different results.

    This must be a sign that we should all switch to black & white only 😉

  3. fotdmike says:

    Yeah, these colour variations are a source of ongoing frustration for me. Its not just colour either, its also brightness. The level at which this is set on any given screen can make a huge difference to how a photo appears… and who’s to say what’s “right”? So what should be taken as a standard to be sure that the majority of people see a pic as the photographer intends?
    And (this being possibly the more pertinent issue) the presence of such variations could even conceivably lead to the photographer him/herself not being certain which version is “right”. After all, how reliable is peoples’ “colour memory”? Not as reliable as we’d imagine, I’m suspecting. Certainly my own experiences (most recently with some shots I did of traffic bollards in my village) are leading me to that conclusion.

    Not entirely unconnected to this, I’m also reminded of how one’s own “colour vision” can be impacted by ambient lighting to the extent that one temporarily sees everything with a distinct colour-caste. Yet, because this is part of one’s own vision, one may not realise the phenomenon’s occurring.
    This is a recollection from my old graphics days and remembering that working for any significant length of time in a darkroom with a tinted light source would impart a colour-caste to one’s vision for a period of time having returned to “normal” daylight.

    But is such an effect confined just to darkroom workers? Likely not.

    Maybe it wouldn’t be such a huge issue for me if I weren’t habitually swapping between different machines to do various things. If I only ever worked on the one machine then I’d probably be unaware that the problem even existed.

  4. Pingback: One of my bright ideas | Adventures of an Idiot – occasional ramblings of a photography freak

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