I used three different cameras for my portrait session with Dani on Weds. Interesting to see the differences...

Photographed with Sony a99 and 85mm Rokinon 1.5 Cine Lens.

I was adjusting a side panel and I looked over at Dani and realized that I really liked the light at that angle so I had her turn a bit and we shot some images. All the out of focus stuff in the background is just my desk and my chair and miscellaneous junk.  But the junk always looks nice when it's out of focus in the background. 

The images I showed previously were all done with a Samsung NX300 but my original intention was to shoot most of the images with the Sony a99 and the Rokinon 85mm lens (which I like very, very much) and to just toss in the little camera to see how it performed. In the end I shot about half and half with these two cameras, along with a smattering of shots done with the Sony a850 and the Sony 85mm 2.8.

I'm not prepared to say that one machine is better than the other but the differences are more nuanced than newsworthy. The a99 images are noticeable by the way the focus falls quickly off which is a result of the bigger sensor and the wider aperture lens (though the angle of view for both the small and large cameras is very similar).  The actual "drawing" of her face is much the same between both cameras and the skin tones are similar. But there is a difference that makes me stop and really dig down to understand what it is I'm seeing. It's just hard to put into words.

While the Sony has a bigger frame and the focus falls off much quicker the files seem more like transparency films from the film days. The contrasts between tones seem sharper and quicker while the tonality of the NX 300 seems smoother and less dramatic. In one sense the more dramatic tonality of the a99 is satisfying by it's realism while the smoother skin tone and less dramatic tonalities between lights and darks on my subject's face make an image that's ultimately more flattering.  But is my intention always to flatter or is it to make an image that has some alternate resonance to me? I think most times I'll pick the later over the former.

And while I have not yet process the a850 files my past experiences tell me that they will have an even more heightened drama that's a result of a tighter (harder?) inherent contrast curve vis-a-vis the other two cameras. While we can change the characteristic curves in post the embedded ones carry with them a negative inertia that inhibits me from making large changes or swings. And like any changes you make to an existing file there is always a compromise and a loss involved.

While post processing can my files from many cameras almost to close to differentiate I still believe that different digital cameras each have their own fingerprint and it's harder to erase than we think without whole scale post processing trickery.

For now my money is marginally on the Samsung where flattering skin tone is involved and wholly on the Sony where my impression of reality is involved. Hard to explain to people who are more motivated by metrics but easily understandable by anyone who stops and just looks...

The image above was lit by one six tube, Fotodiox Day Flo Max fluorescent unit bounced into an 84 inch Fotodiox White Umbrella. There's a little light bouncing around the back of the room from my Fiilex LED unit which is illuminating the background...


  1. I think it is true that digital cameras have their own unique way of rendering an image. I stopped comparing camera specs long ago and I've never been a pixel peeper, but I am very interested in the "look" that digital cameras capture. For example, I've always been impressed with the way the Nikon D700 renders images. I don't feel that way about the new D600. I still shoot with my 6mp D50 because I love the look of the images and the colour and skin tones that camera gives me.

  2. Remember the Fuji S5 or S3 from former days? Some folks still struggle to try to reach the skintones of JPG OOC from a S5 in postproduction of images of different systems...


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