Now that we know how to create a 3×3 linear matrix to convert white balanced and demosaiced raw data into connection space – and where to obtain the 3×3 linear matrix to then convert it to a standard output color space like sRGB – we can take a closer look at the matrices and apply them to a real world capture chosen for its wide range of chromaticities.
Whether the human visual system perceives a displayed slow changing gradient of tones, such as a vast expanse of sky, as smooth or posterized depends mainly on two well known variables: the Weber-Fechner Fraction of the ‘steps’ in the reflected/produced light intensity (the subject of this article); and spatial dithering of the light intensity as a result of noise (the subject of a future one).
In the last few posts I have made the case that Image Quality in a digital camera is entirely dependent on the light Information collected at a sensor’s photosites during Exposure. Any subsequent processing – whether analog amplification and conversion to digital in-camera and/or further processing in-computer – effectively applies a set of Information Transfer Functions to the signal that when multiplied together result in the data from which the final photograph is produced. Each step of the way can at best maintain the original Information Quality (IQ) but in most cases it will degrade it somewhat.
IQ: Only as Good as at Photosites’ Output
This point is key: in a well designed imaging system** the final image IQ is only as good as the scene information collected at the sensor’s photosites, independently of how this information is stored in the working data along the processing chain, on its way to being transformed into a pleasing photograph. As long as scene information is properly encoded by the system early on, before being written to the raw file – and information transfer is maintained in the data throughout the imaging and processing chain – final photograph IQ will be virtually the same independently of how its data’s histogram looks along the way.
In photography, digital cameras capture information about the scene carried by photons reflected by it and store the information as data in a raw file pretty well linearly. Data is the container, scene information is the substance. There may or may not be information in the data, no matter what its form. With a few limitations what counts is the substance, information, not the form, data.
A Simple Example
Imagine for instance that you are taking stock of the number of remaining pieces in your dinner place settings. You originally had a full set of 6 of everything but today, after many years of losses and breakage, this is the situation in each category: Continue reading The Difference Between Data and Information
This is a recurring nightmare for a new photographer: they head out with their brand new state-of-the art digital camera, capture a set of images with a vast expanse of sky or smoothly changing background, come home, fire them up on their computer, play with a few sliders and … gasp! … there are visible bands (posterization, stairstepping, quantization) all over the smoothly changing gradient. ‘Is my new camera broken?!’, they wonder in horror.
Relax, chances are very (very) good that the camera is fine. I am going to show you in this post how to make sure that that is indeed the case and hone in on the real culprit(s). Continue reading I See Banding in the Sky. Is my Camera Faulty?