Use of Modern Software Tools Maximizes Low Light Potential (G9)

Brian G

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
263
Location
Victoria, BC
I'm posting the image linked below as an example of what can be accomplished in a very low light environment, with a smaller-sensor camera (Panasonic G9, m43 format) given current software tools used in post. I've intentionally used an example that, according to popular opinion online, shows this format at its' worst - hand-held shooting in very low light. Please read what follows, look at the linked image as large as your display allows, and judge for yourself.

Please look at the link on Flickr, not only at the thumbnail shown below.

Note that this was taken at f4.0, shutter speed 1/30 second (for the "0" 1st frame), ISO 1250, stabilization off, (5) exposure brackets one stop apart and merged to a RAW .dng file. Had this been taken with my Sony with a "full frame" sensor, for similar light gathering, it would have been f8.0 for equivalency, which would have required an ISO of (probably) 3200 or thereabouts. This is assuming that I wanted a similar perceived depth of field, which I would typically. The brackets were taken hand-held.

Post Processing:
1. RAW development / demosaicing in LR CC (minimal, no NR, no sharpening, etc.).
2. In Photoshop: Layer 2 for Topaz Denoise AI.
3. Layer 3: Topaz Adjust AI (standard mode).
4. Layer 4: Topaz Sharpen AI (Out of Focus mode, note the image wasn't actually out of focus, this was simply the mode that produced the best result). Setting reduced a bit from "auto".
5. Exported to 4K resolution in LR for posting.

https://flic.kr/p/2kYDWF5 Just another example that one of the finest m43 cameras & a very good lens can produce a very good final result in a situation where the small sensor is typically at the greatest disadvantage to good examples of larger sensor cameras. I love this combination for travel in particular, where bulk & weight are obstacles.

Brian
 
Last edited:

b_rubenstein

Mu-43 All-Pro
Joined
Mar 20, 2012
Messages
1,514
Location
Melbourne, FL
Over a 100 years ago people figured out that if they used a sturdy tripod and a camera with a T setting for the shutter, they could take high quality photographs in low light. For cameras with E shutters, not much more than a half decent table top tripod is needed.
 
Joined
Jan 7, 2017
Messages
1,089
Thanks for posting this Brian, I agree that the newer processing features that are available are definitely leveling the playing field. I have no issues cranking things up and only having LR for my processing. If I start doing more printing I will be getting the topaz plugins.
 

Brian G

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
263
Location
Victoria, BC
Why did you leave stabilisation off?
I've used stabilization sparingly over the years since it became viable. No question it has merit and has its' place, however I've also seen enough images softened occasionally by stabilization to not trust it completely. This image was taken at a shutter speed of 1/30 for a focal length of 18mm (equivalent to 36mm for a 35mm-sized sensor). So roughly 1:1 in terms of legacy thoughts of what is hand-holdable for acceptable sharpness.
So my personal judgement was that stabilization wasn't technically required, and while others may make a different decision, this line of thinking tends to work for me.
The proof of concept in this image is that it is respectably sharp.
I don't intend to offend those who rely extensively on stabilization, to each his own.

Brian
 

Brian G

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
263
Location
Victoria, BC
Why not just use stabilization and take a single properly exposed image at 6400 then run deep prime NR in Photolab?
That's an alternative, of course. As to DXO, I've never used it, and don't feel any need to go there. I can't comment on how it compares to Topaz Denoise AI, but that app works very well in my experience, well enough that I don't feel a need to search elsewhere. Also, I already use a wide enough variety of software tools that I'd rather not add another, unless there is a more compelling reason to do so.
Others may feel similarly confident in the DXO solution, and don't look at Topaz.
I would only choose to shoot at such a relatively high ISO as 6400 if I felt that the lower ISO would necessitate a shutter speed that wouldn't allow for a sharp capture. This is a personal preference, yours may be different.

Brian
 

Brian G

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
263
Location
Victoria, BC
Over a 100 years ago people figured out that if they used a sturdy tripod and a camera with a T setting for the shutter, they could take high quality photographs in low light. For cameras with E shutters, not much more than a half decent table top tripod is needed.
All true. But not applicable to this situation, as this was taken in a restaurant overlooking the scene, and a tripod would have been a major intrusion to nearby diners, assuming it was tolerated at all by the establishment, which is unlikely. Neither was a table top tripod an option, no table top with this perspective that wasn't occupied by others, and looking through a railing.
The original post is about what quality of final results can be achieved not only in low light, but when you either don't have a tripod or the use of one isn't feasible. On this trip, I had decided to leave a tripod at home, wanting to travel light and also because the trip wasn't primarily for purposes of photography. This is a situation that I think some photographers who travel can appreciate.

Brian
 

Brian G

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
263
Location
Victoria, BC
Thanks for posting this Brian, I agree that the newer processing features that are available are definitely leveling the playing field. I have no issues cranking things up and only having LR for my processing. If I start doing more printing I will be getting the topaz plugins.
Thanks for the kind comment!

Brian
 

Variable

Mu-43 Regular
Joined
Sep 3, 2020
Messages
26
Ooooh, that image came out really well!

You make a valid point that the software processing can make for great low-light results. As a processing slacker, I've been enjoying DXO Photolab 4, with Deep Prime. Fun fact: you actually have to export the image to see the denoise results. It does a wee little preview to give you an idea, but it's hard to grasp its full impact until you export. Or you can drag the preview window around the image, and then wait for the preview to render.

Keep up the good work!
 

Egregius V

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Jun 14, 2015
Messages
847
Location
Massachusetts, USA
Real Name
Rev. Gregory Vozzo
Very cool image! :) You did fairly well with the tools you selected. Still, I think an even better result is possible. Notice the false textures that Topaz probably introduced into the upper right part of the image where the volcano is. Selective application of Topaz sharpening using masks is essential for avoiding this. And I think DxO's DeepPRIME denoising and lens sharpening (PhotoLab 4 or Pure RAW 1) are really worth a try here in the first stage of your workflow.
 
D

Deleted member 36320

Guest
I'm posting the image linked below as an example of what can be accomplished in a very low light environment, with a smaller-sensor camera (Panasonic G9, m43 format) given current software tools used in post. I've intentionally used an example that, according to popular opinion online, shows this format at its' worst - hand-held shooting in very low light. Please read what follows, look at the linked image as large as your display allows, and judge for yourself.

Please look at the link on Flickr, not only at the thumbnail shown below.

Note that this was taken at f4.0, shutter speed 1/30 second (for the "0" 1st frame), ISO 1250, stabilization off, (5) exposure brackets one stop apart and merged to a RAW .dng file. Had this been taken with my Sony with a "full frame" sensor, for similar light gathering, it would have been f8.0 for equivalency, which would have required an ISO of (probably) 3200 or thereabouts. This is assuming that I wanted a similar perceived depth of field, which I would typically. The brackets were taken hand-held.

Post Processing:
1. RAW development / demosaicing in LR CC (minimal, no NR, no sharpening, etc.).
2. In Photoshop: Layer 2 for Topaz Denoise AI.
3. Layer 3: Topaz Adjust AI (standard mode).
4. Layer 4: Topaz Sharpen AI (Out of Focus mode, note the image wasn't actually out of focus, this was simply the mode that produced the best result). Setting reduced a bit from "auto".
5. Exported to 4K resolution in LR for posting.

https://flic.kr/p/2kYDWF5 Just another example that one of the finest m43 cameras & a very good lens can produce a very good final result in a situation where the small sensor is typically at the greatest disadvantage to good examples of larger sensor cameras. I love this combination for travel in particular, where bulk & weight are obstacles.

Brian
Brian, I like a lot of your images on Flickr and I will drop by shortly. The image you posted calls i suspect for a lot of dynamic range, but at ISO1250 this image is not a big challenge. I often photograph indoor and I routinely use ISO3200. My secret weapon is Photolab 4, which is near miraculous in term of denoising. here are 2 examples: https://flic.kr/p/2kVnSrj and https://flic.kr/p/2kW573b . I find Topaz Denoise slow and no match for the DXO. Indeed, I am not a fant of Topz. It is too slow. NIK is nimble, you have a good control with it and the results are precisely what you want.
 

Ranger Rick

Mu-43 Top Veteran
Joined
Apr 11, 2009
Messages
623
Location
Tempe, AZ
Real Name
Rick
I've used stabilization sparingly over the years since it became viable. No question it has merit and has its' place, however I've also seen enough images softened occasionally by stabilization to not trust it completely. This image was taken at a shutter speed of 1/30 for a focal length of 18mm (equivalent to 36mm for a 35mm-sized sensor). So roughly 1:1 in terms of legacy thoughts of what is hand-holdable for acceptable sharpness.
So my personal judgement was that stabilization wasn't technically required, and while others may make a different decision, this line of thinking tends to work for me.
The proof of concept in this image is that it is respectably sharp.
I don't intend to offend those who rely extensively on stabilization, to each his own.
++++++++++

Brian processed this the way he wished. There may be more than one way to do things, but no reason to complain he didn't do it the way we would do it. His method works, that's all that matters. Strange times that one has to say they "don't intend to offend" in posting like this. Kudos for Brian to post!
 

Brian G

Mu-43 Veteran
Joined
Nov 16, 2010
Messages
263
Location
Victoria, BC
Brian, I like a lot of your images on Flickr and I will drop by shortly. The image you posted calls i suspect for a lot of dynamic range, but at ISO1250 this image is not a big challenge. I often photograph indoor and I routinely use ISO3200. My secret weapon is Photolab 4, which is near miraculous in term of denoising. here are 2 examples: https://flic.kr/p/2kVnSrj and https://flic.kr/p/2kW573b . I find Topaz Denoise slow and no match for the DXO. Indeed, I am not a fant of Topz. It is too slow. NIK is nimble, you have a good control with it and the results are precisely what you want.
Thanks for the very positive contribution to what I intended to be an interesting and informative conversation. Were I to try DXO I might well appreciate it, however I have time and patience, and honestly I'm not sure how I would get on with DXO not accurately previewing results until the image is exported, as I most often fine tune the settings in essentially all apps, Topaz being no exception. Only rarely do I feel that the AUTO settings are optimum. Of course, this takes extra time, and probably is a headache for those who prefer to get on with things more quickly.
Agreed that ISO 1250 isn't all that high. In fact, once I had the idea of using that image as an example for this topic, I was a bit disappointed that the ISO wasn't higher! Otherwise this image ticked the essential boxes for this subject.

Brian
 

Latest posts

Links on this page may be to our affiliates. Sales through affiliate links may benefit this site.
Mu-43 is a fan site and not associated with Olympus, Panasonic, or other manufacturers mentioned on this site.
Forum post reactions by Twemoji: https://github.com/twitter/twemoji
Forum GIFs powered by GIPHY: https://giphy.com/
Copyright © Amin Forums, LLC
Top Bottom