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An introduction to digital black and white photography

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The Best Digital Camera For Black And White Photography.

Shoot RAW + JPEG. The most excellent monochrome conversions are found by chance by editing raw files which have the full colour information, but if you shoot raw and JPEG files simultaneously and set the camera to its monochrome photograph Style/Picture Control/Film Simulation mode you get an indication of how the image will look in black and white. As most photographers struggle to visualise a scene in black and white, these monochrome modes are an invaluable tool that will help with composition and scene assessment. most cameras are also capable of producing decent in-camera monochrome images these days and it’s worth experimenting with image parameters (usually contrast, sharpness, filter effects and toning) to find a look that you like. Because compact manner cameras and compact cameras show the scene seen by the sensor with camera settings applied, users of these cameras are able to preview the monochrome image in the electronic viewfinder or on rear screen before taking the shot. DSLR users should also do this if they kick in her camera’s live notion trait , but the usually slower responses mean that numerous will find it preferable or check the image on the screen post-capture.

Use Filters. Graduated neutral density (AKA ND grad) and polarizing filters are simply as advantageous in monochrome photography as they are in colour. In fact, because they manipulate image contrast they are arguably more useful . An ND grad is helpful when you require to retain detail in a bright sky while a polarizing filter may be used to decrease reflections and boost contrast. Alternatively, make of,find taking two or more shots with different exposures to create a high dynamic range (HDR) composite. Don’t be afraid to use a ND grad with a standard neural density filter if the sky is brighter than the foreground in a long exposure shot. Coloured filters, which are an essential tool for monochrome film photographers, should also be advantageous for manipulating contrast in digital images. They work by darkening objects of her opposite colour while lightening objects of their own. An orange filter, for example, will darken the blue of the sky while a green one will lighten foliage.

Try Long Exposure. Long exposure shots could work really well in monochrome photography, especially where there’s moving water or clouds. During the exposure the highlights of the water, for example, are recorded across a wider area than they would with a short exposure and this should help enhance tonal contrast. The blurring of the movement also adds textural contrast with any solid objects in the frame. If required , use a neutral density filter such as Lee Filters’ Big Stopper or Little Stopper to reduce exposure and extend shutter speed (by 10 and 4 stops respectively). typically , when exposures extend farther than on the subject of in connection with 1/60 sec a tripod is required to keep the camera still and avoid blurring. It’s also advisable to use a remote release and mirror lock-up to minimise vibration and produce super-sharp images.

Take Control. Although coloured filters can still be used to manipulate contrast when shooting digital black and white images, it’s more prominent to save this work until the processing stage. Until a some years ago Photoshop’s Channel Mixer was the preferred means of turning colour images monochrome, but now Adobe Camera Raw has more powerful tools (in the HSL/Grayscale tab) that allow you to adjust the brightness of eight individual colours that make up the image. It’s possible to adjust one of these colours to make it anything from white to black with the sliding control. However, it’s important to keep an eye on the whole image when adjusting a particular colour as subtle gradations can become unnatural looking. And adjusting the brightness of a red or pinkish shirt with the red sliding control, for instance , will have an impact on the model’s skin, especially the lips. The Levels and Curves controls could also be used to manipulate tonal range and contrast, but the HSL/Grayscale controls allow you to create segregation between objects of the same brightness but with unique colours.

Look for Contrast, Shape and Texture. The complimentary and opposing colours that bring a colour image to life are all decreased to black and white or shades of grey in a monochrome image and you have to look for tonal contrast to make a shot stand out. In colour photography, for example, your eye would instantaneously be drawn to a red object on a green background, but in monochrome photography these two areas are likely to have the same brightness, so the image looks flat and featureless straight from the camera. happily , it’s possible to work adjust the brightness of these two colours discretely to introduce some contrast. However, a great starting point is to look for scenes with tonal contrast. There are always exceptions, but as a general rule look for scenes that contain some forceful blacks and whites. This may be achieved by the light or by the brightness (or tone) of the objects in the scene as well as the exposure settings that you use. The brightness of the bark of a silver birch tree for example, should inject some contrast (and interest) in to a woodland scene. Setting the exposure for these brighter areas also makes the shadows darker, so the highlights stand out even more. Look for shapes, patterns and textures in a scene and move around to find the greatest composition.

Dodge and Burn. Dodging and burning is a idiosyncrasy that comes from the traditional darkroom and is usually used to burn in or darken highlights and hold back (brighten) shadows. Photoshop’s Dodge and Burn tools allow a level of control that film photographers can only hope of because you can target the highlights, shadows or mid-tones with both. This means that you could use the Burn tool to darken highlights when they are too bright, or the Dodge tool to perk up them to grow local contrast. It’s a great road of sharing a sense of superior sharpness and enhancing texture. Plus, because you can set the opacity of the tools, you can build up her effect gradually so the impact is crafty and there are no hard edges.

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The black and white photographers guide to light and contrastCamera olympus digital camera black and whiteSony alpha camera with digital slr interchangeable lens lens black so i could pretend to be a photographerFujix100skitLeica m monochrom camera do you like love black and white photography then feast your eyes on the leica m monochrom camera billed as the worlds firstChristmas is just around the corner and if youre anything like me youll be worrying about what gifts you need to buy if youre thinking of buying a

For those who don’t want to spend as much on a monochrome-only digital camera, there’s the third-party company LDP LLC (MaxMax.com), who sells modified versions of the Fuji X100S-M and Fuji X-Pro1-M. They convert Fuji’s X-Trans color sensor cameras to monochrome by removing the color filter array, and, according to MaxMax.com, they perform very well: “Fuji monochrome cameras can compare quite favorably to the Leica M but with higher performance in many respects and with a much lower price.” You can currently purchase the Fuji X-Pro1-M for $2,425 and the Fuji X100S-M for $2,600.

A monochrome (or black-and-white) photo can be nostalgic, timeless, beautiful and these days there are a few ways to capture one. Many digital cameras have monochrome modes. You can also edit photos with programs like Photoshop and Lightroom, or by using a RAW converter, that turn your color photo into a monochrome photo. For the best monochrome photos, however, you really want a camera that doesn’t collect color information at all, and they’re a decidedly rare breed.

Today, there are three basic monochrome digital cameras on the market, from Leica, Phase One and RED. They range in price from over $7,000 to over $40,000, and that’s their primary drawback. But in terms of monochrome image quality, they offer the best there is.

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It’s a bit ironic considering the Leica cachet, but the M Monochrom is far and away the lowest-cost monochrome digital camera available today. It’s essentially a classic Leica M rangefinder camera, but with an 18-megapixel, full-frame (35.8×23.9mm) monochrome CCD sensor that has no RGB filter grid and no AA filter (but it does have an IR filter to cut off wavelengths longer than 700nm). Like all M-series Leica cameras, the M Monochrom can use the full lineup of legendary Leica M lenses (from 16mm to 135mm), and each frames just as it does on a traditional 35mm Leica M camera, thanks to the full-frame sensor. ISO range is 320-10,000 (and there’s even an auto ISO feature). Unlike most digital cameras, the M Monochrom has a histogram that displays the unprocessed, unmodified raw data, rather than data for a camera-processed JPEG image—very helpful for nailing those RAW exposures (the camera shoots DNG RAW files, as well as JPEGs). You can tone JPEGs in-camera. Digital aspects aside, the M Monochrom is a Leica M camera, with quick and easy rangefinder focusing, quiet operation, and a rugged body featuring top and base plates of machined brass and a housing manufactured from a single piece of magnesium alloy. Dimensions are 5.5×3.1×1.5 inches, weight is 21.2 ounces (body only). Estimated Street Price: $7,200. us.leica-camera.com

The Leica M Monochrom is a rangefinder-style digital camera and a true black-and-white shooter. Released in 2012, it’s beloved by most serious photographers, but it’s also known for being quite difficult to use. It doesn’t have autofocus, so you’ll have to adjust the lens’s focus ring — any of Leica’s M-Series of lenses are compatible with the M Monochrom — to capture in-focus photos. Aperture is also controlled by the lens. It doesn’t have great bursting or video shooting (up to 1080p) abilities, either. And it lacks wi-fi, GPS, and NFC, which are all common features on today’s digital cameras. However, the M Monochrom has a 24-megapixel full-frame sensor and flexible ISO (320-25600) and can capture stunningly crisp black-and-white photos. For expert photographers who aren’t scared away by this Leica’s price tag, this is the best monochrome camera you can buy.

Converting a color image into monochrome in your computer offers the advantages of lots of control—your home computer is more powerful than the one built into your camera, and can handle more complex algorithms, and specialized monochrome software such as Nik Silver Efex Pro provides powerful conversion and finishing tools. And you can convert any digital image, whether it was shot recently or it’s a scan from an old Kodachrome transparency. Photoshop’s Channel Mixer gives you tremendous control over the tones in the image. (See “Monochrome Conversion” by Ming Thein in this issue for more about using the Channel Mixer.) The main drawback to converting a color image is the same as with using the camera’s monochrome mode: That color original image suffers the effects of demosaicing.

There are three basic ways to produce a monochrome (black-and-white) image with a digital camera: Shoot it that way using your camera’s monochrome mode; convert a color image to monochrome using your RAW converter, Photoshop or specialized monochrome software; or shoot with a monochrome digital camera.

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Conventional image sensors consist of a fine grid of millions of pixels or photodiodes that record light in proportion to its intensity. Each pixel can detect how much light strikes it, but not what color that light is. To provide color information, most manufacturers position a grid of primary-colored filters called a Bayer array (named after the Kodak scientist who devised it) over the pixels, with one primary color, red, green or blue, covering each pixel so that each pixel receives only light of that color. Then, through a process known as demosaicing, the camera’s processor (if you shoot JPEG) or your RAW converter (if you shoot RAW) creates a full-color image, using color data from neighboring pixels and interpolation via complex proprietary algorithms to furnish the missing color data for each pixel.

When DSLR users talk about full-frame, they mean 35mm full-frame: a sensor measuring about 36x24mm, the size of a full 35mm film frame. To medium-format users, full-frame means the size of a full 645-format film frame. That would be 6×4.5cm, in theory, more like 56×41.5mm in terms of actual image area. Phase One’s IQ260 Achromatic medium-format digital back (available as a kit with the Phase One 645DF+ camera body, or with mounts to fit many popular medium-format and technical cameras) features a 60-megapixel, full-frame medium-format monochrome CCD sensor that measures a whopping 53.7×40.3mm—more than 2.5X the area of a full-frame 35mm DSLR sensor and 1.5X the area of the 44x33mm sensors found in lower-end medium-format cameras. Besides the huge sensor size and 60 megapixels (and the resulting superb image quality), the back offers a 3.2-inch, 1150K-dot touch-screen display, 13 stops of dynamic range and ISOs from 200-3200. The back is ruggedly constructed of 100% aircraft-grade aluminum, and can be operated as an independent unit, tethered to a computer or wirelessly from an iPad or iPhone using Phase One Capture Pilot. Besides having no Bayer filters or AA filter, the IQ260 Achromatic has no IR cutoff filter, so it can also be used for infrared photography. Estimated Street Price: $44,495. www.phaseone.com

This process works quite well—all major-brand digital cameras except Sigma’s use this method on amateur as well as pro-oriented models (see the “Sigma/Foveon” sidebar). However, the demosaicing process does have some drawbacks. First, a lot of light is wasted, since the colored filters block two-thirds of the light from reaching each pixel. Second, the demosaicing process produces aliasing—moiré, color artifacts and the like. To combat this, most sensors also include an anti-aliasing (AA) filter, or optical low-pass filter (OLPF), which slightly blurs the image at the pixel level to minimize moiré. This, of course, also slightly reduces overall image sharpness.

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There is: a monochrome camera. The sensors in monochrome digital cameras don’t have color filter arrays because there’s no need. Thus, they record all the light (per the sensor’s quantum efficiency) that falls on each pixel; none is lost to color filters, so sensor sensitivity is, in effect, higher. There’s no demosaicing, and thus no color moiré and no need for the blurring AA filter. So images from a monochrome sensor are inherently sharper than converted color images, and sensitivity is higher. Of course, the monochrome camera can’t produce color images, so you have to consider your needs. Monochrome cameras are quite costly, so most photographers probably will be better off doing monochrome with their regular digital cameras—which can deliver excellent monochrome images despite the drawbacks. But for the monochrome connoisseur, the monochrome camera is the way to go.

Phase One’s IQ3 100MP Achromatic is a digital back that allows any IQ3 XF medium-format camera to shoot black-and-white-only photos. Announced in 2017, the digital back has a brand new 101-megapixel CMOS sensor with a max ISO of 51,200, making it that most light sensitive medium format digital back that you can currently purchase. It also has an electronic shutter button, built-in wifi and can capture up to 60-minute long exposures. This camera back is really designed for photographers looking to take super high-resolution photos of architecture and landscapes. At at $50,000 for the back alone, they probably need to be serious photographers.

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Sigma’s DSLRs and compact cameras with Foveon X3 image sensors don’t use Bayer filter arrays and demosaicing. Instead, they derive color from the fact that different light wavelengths penetrate silicon to different depths. Foveon sensors stack three pixel layers, in effect, the top layer recording short (blue) wavelengths, the middle layer, medium (green), and the bottom layer, long (red) wavelengths. (It’s really more complicated than that, especially with the latest-generation Foveon Quattro sensors, but it’s simpler to think of it this way.) The result is that these sensors record all three primary colors (as well as full luminance data) at every pixel site, no demosaicing or interpolation required—and, thus, no AA filter required, either. The result is sharper images than produced by Bayer sensors of equal horizontal-by -vertical pixel count—and better monochrome images. The Foveon monochrome images aren’t as good as those from dedicated monochrome sensors, but they’re better than those from Bayer sensors—and the Sigma cameras cost a lot less than the monochrome digital cameras. The Sigma SD1 Merrill DSLR sells for around $1,999, the DP1, DP2 and DP3 Merrill compact cameras (with built-in wide-angle, normal and short tele lenses, respectively), for around $799, and the new dp1, dp2 and dp3 Quattro compacts (with wide, normal and short tele lenses, respectively) for $999. www.sigmaphoto.com

What makes a monochrome camera better? Most conventional digital cameras have color filters laid over its sensor that capture a full-color image — this process is called demosaicing — but these filters also interfere with the sensor’s ability to capture the full spectrum of available light. This means that even though a digital camera’s monochrome mode can do a good job, it’s not going to be able to reach the same black and white levels of a monochrome camera. The advantage of using a conventional digital camera when shooting in monochrome mode, on the flip side, is you can turn black-and-white RAW photos into colored photos after they’ve been taken.

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Monochrome photography is a bit different than traditional photography — things like light, shadows, shapes and textures play much more prominent roles. (Since most photographers see in color… this adds another level of difficulty.) But for those who really have a passion for monochrome photography, and they want to take the best quality photo, they should really look into a dedicated monochrome camera. Be forewarned, there aren’t many options and they are all pretty expensive.

Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for a more affordable option, we suggest looking into the Sigma dp3 Quattro ($899+). It’s not a true monochrome camera, as its Foveon Quattro sensor can still capture color, but the sensor doesn’t use traditional light filters and it instead derives colors without demosaicing, resulting in more accurate monochrome photos.

(You can read more about the technology, here.) All Sigma’s new dp1, dp2 and dp3 Quattro compacts have a Foveon sensor.

Using your camera’s monochrome mode has several advantages. You can use the camera’s built-in filters (including the old black-and-white standbys red, yellow and green), you can view the image in monochrome on the LCD monitor, and if you shoot RAW rather than JPEG, you have the ability to process the resulting file into monochrome or full color after the fact. The primary drawback is that conventional digital sensors, with their Bayer RGB filter arrays, don’t provide optimal monochrome image quality—more on this in a bit.

So when you use your camera’s monochrome mode, or convert a color digital image to monochrome in your computer, you’re working from a color image that was fabricated from a monochrome image using colored filters and complex image processing, and then turned back into monochrome. There must be a better way.

Many still photographers may think of RED as being only for video. However, RED’s DSMCs (Digital Still and Motion Cameras) can produce superb still images, as well as feature-quality video. The EPIC Monochrome features the RED Mysterium-X Monochrome sensor, a 30x15mm unit that can deliver 14-megapixel still images, as well as video up to 5K (5120×2700) at rates up to 59.94 fps. Native ISO is 2000; dynamic range is 13.5 stops (up to 18 stops with RED HDRx). Adapters are available for PL, Canon, Nikon and Leica lenses. RED offers two electronic viewfinders and LCD monitors from 5.0 to 9.0 inches, some with touch-screen capability. Images are saved to REDMAG 1.8-inch SSD units from 48 GB to 512 GB, or the RED MINI-MAG 512 GB. There are two versions of the EPIC Monochrome: the EPIC-M is handmade in California and carries a two-year warranty and a $25,000 price (Brain only), while the production EPIC-X (also made in the U.S.) carries a one-year warranty and a $20,000 price (Brain only). The RED EPIC-M Dragon Monochrome adds 6K (6144×3160) video, 19-megapixel stills and a 16.5-stop dynamic range to the above features, thanks to the Dragon-M sensor with interchangeable DSMC Monochrome OLPF. It sells for $31,500 (Brain only). www.red.com

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Note that all digital images can suffer from aliasing—when you sample real-world scenes with a fine grid array, some aliasing (“stair-stepped” edges, moiré, etc.) will occur if the pattern of the subject is the right size and at the angle to conflict with the sampling grid. The finer the pixel grid, the less likely this is to happen, so more and more DSLRs and mirrorless cameras today are doing away with the AA filter as pixel counts go up. And medium-format digital cameras have never used AA filters. Aliasing—when it occurs—can be corrected in post-processing, as medium-format users have operated from the start.

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