• Dynamic range: D600 vs. D700

    A while back I wrote about the Nikon’s D7000 dynamic range in the shadows. Now we look at how the D600 vs. D700 compare in the shadows and highlights.

    We will examine a typical indoor situation where high dynamic range challenges our ability to capture all the detail our eye sees. Our choices in such situations are many, but without doing exposure blending (HDR and other techniques), to get the job done in a single exposure we have 3 basic choices: expose for the highlights, which gets us dark shadow areas; expose for the shadows in which case the highlights will blow and lose detail; or a compromise somewhere in between.

    The next 3 examples compare how the Nikon D600 and D700 coupled with post-processing for shadow and highlight recovery help us meet the dynamic range challenge. We will use Lightroom 4 for shadow and highlight recovery, a capability that Lightroom 4 implements with minimal negative impact to color fidelity. Each set of shots uses the camera’s base ISO (200 for the D700, 100 for the D600) and the equivalent shutter speed to match the exposure at the selected f/8 aperture.

    Exposing for the highlights

    This first set of shots aims to preserve the texture detail in the lamp shade using the metering for the whites method. As the shots in the first column show, this gives us shadows on the dark side, which we recover in Lightroom. You can examine the area in the top left corner of the third column crops to see which camera’s output yields the most noise.

    Top: D700 @f/8, ISO200, 1/25 sec
    Bottom: D600 @f/8, ISO100, 1/13 sec

    The middle of the road exposure

    The second set of shots uses the exposure that matrix meter gives for this scene. The lamp shade is starting to bloom, and highlight recovery lets us recover the texture detail there, while shadow recovery brings out the shadows a bit more. Again, you can examine the end result in the third column crops.

    Top: D700 @f/8, ISO200, 1/6 sec
    Bottom: D600 @f/8, ISO100, 1/3 sec

    Exposing for the shadows

    The third set of shots exposes for the shadows by spot-metering on the darkest shadow areas in the scene. This renders shadows toward middle tones, but it results in hopelessly blown highlights… or does it? In Lightroom we can apply maximum highlight recovery and combined with negative exposure compensation to recover all or most of the lampshade texture detail. This time you can examine the crop to see which camera’s output retains the highlight detail and which one didn’t quite get there.

    Top: D700 @f/8, ISO200, 1/4 sec
    Bottom: D600 @f/8, ISO100, 1/2 sec

    Based on these results, it does appear that for practical situations such as the one we examined here, the D600 does give us a bit more headroom in both the highlights and the shadows. Combined with judicious Lightroom shadow and highlight recovery, this capability helps us get shots with less than ideal lighting.

    Update: See more samples here…

    Eduardo Suastegui is a fine art and wedding photography serving the Los Angeles area in the cities of Downey and Whittier, California