Variations on a high ISO image

I took another photo of Tuna, “our” cat today, like almost every day. She sat in a box and just looked too cute to be ignored. And tho I tried to get a sharp photo with ISO 800 first, it was too dark, and I always had a bit of movement from her – so I used ISO 6400 instead.

In the past this resulted in more or less borderline quality – good enough for small images on web pages or even for postcard-sized prints, but that was about it. Now? I’m amazed about how and/or what they did to the imaging process at Olympus, because if you treat the images with their own “Olympus Viewer 3” raw converter which does the same as the camera would, then even with the noise reduction switched completely off it now still results in very impressive photos.

I won’t stop there of course, and still treat the images with other programs afterwards, because in many if not most cases I prefer a black & white image to a colour one – but Mitchie is the complete opposite of me here, and to just show what can be achieved “in camera” (or with no further manipulation in OV3 which is the same), I’ll show you the originals here, both in colour and also in (in-camera) black & white:

Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018. Olympus Viewer 3 conversion with no further manipulations (= the same as “in camera jpg conversion”)
Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018. The quasi “out of camera” black & white conversion (no filters)

As I just wrote above, I won’t stop there. The least I’d do to any black & white photo is to use my “midtoning” in RawTherapee, which, when applied to the b&w photo from above, would look like this:

Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018. “In camera” b&w with toning of the midtones in RawTherapee applied.

I find that nicer than just accepting the grey tones; I strongly prefer these more brownish ones.

But as nice as the in-camera black & white images from Olympus cameras are already, there are certain programs which are dedicated to the task of black & white conversions which offer many more options than Olympus Viewer or any in-camera conversions could. One of them which is (was) free is Silver Efex Pro 2 from the former Google and former Nik companies (now this belongs to DxOMark IIRC).

With Silver Efex Pro 2 I often use just one of their many great presets, and the one I often like most is the “019 Fine Art Process” one, which brings out a lot of fine detail in those grey (and later toned) tones, and just refines photos, for lack of a better word. I also like the “Type 14” simple white border of SFX (Silver Efex Pro 2). Together with my usual midtoning in RawTherapee, the image of the cat would become this:

Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018. Colour raw conversion from OV3, 019 Fine Art Process and white border type 14 from SFX, midtoned in RawTherapee

This is a very nice result already in my opinion, and again I’m amazed at how clean an image with ISO 6400 from a Micro Four Thirds camera can be these days.

But “clean” isn’t always my preferred goal – I used to develop black & white films myself when I was younger, and enlarge those negatives in our parents’ bathroom. And as I’ve written a few days ago, my most used films when I was younger mostly were either Kodak Ektachrome 400 colour slides, or Ilford HP5+ (ISO 400) or FP4+ (ISO 125) black & white ones (together with also using Ilford paper in most cases).

And of course modern programs try to simulate the look of films like these, even RawTherapee now has this. But SFX has a really nice simulation of Ilford’s HP5+, and together with the other treatments mentioned above, the photo would look like this:

Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018. Colour raw conversion from Olympus Viewer 3, Ilford HP5+ film simulation and white border type 14 from SFX, and midtoned with RawTherapee5.

Way more contrasty and harder (tho you could manipulate that as well), and more gritty than all photos above – this would be my favourite by far. The image may look grainy in your small browser windows (or even on mobile phones?), but this would still make a very nice 30x40cm (about 12″x16″) print. So in that regard, quality wise, I have arrived and made peace with digital. This last one I would sign and hang into a gallery if anyone on earth would be willing to pay for just viewing it 😉

To you, as always, thanks for reading and for viewing.

Edit, from a few hours later:

And just because Mitchie likes colour photos much more than single coloured ones, here’s a simulated colour slide from a Kodak Ektachrome 400 film, colour made with Color Efex Pro 4, and image border and exposure number made with The Gimp (“filmstrip” effect):

Tuna the cat, Moerfelden-Walldorf 2018. Simulated Kodak Ektachrome 400 film slide.

Thanks again for viewing.