About two or three times a year, there will be an opportunity for me to take out my camera and take some pictures. My camera of choice used to be Nikon D3100 (with stock lenses, too), which is a nice and decent camera for cosplaying as a pro photographer01Key phrase: cosplaying as. … as long as you’re outside, and the sun is shining, and there’s not a single cloud in sight. The results can be rather nice:
On D3100, I typically shot at ISO400 and with a f-stop that goes as low as I can go — normally around 5.6, because I’m a sucker for low FoV, and you can’t open your aperture wider than that. With sunlight, ISO400 and f/5.6 usually left me with “I don’t need a tripod, yay” one over triple digit shutter speeds.
ISO800 is where things get noticeably worse, but not disastrously bad. Noise can be noticed from afar, but with enough noise reduction you might be still able to pass it off as an artistic choice or something:
But ISO1600 is … well. Let’s just say that ISO1600 is that shadowy place over there you aren’t supposed to ever visit.
So, in conclusion:
while D3100 has served me well, but it’s really not great in low-light conditions. In addition to that, I was also getting a little bit salty about the lack of certain features — most notably, video recording on D3100 is kinda trash and you can’t use it as a webcam, either.
It’s time for a new camera.
My requirements: must be mirrorless, because it’s 2022. And it must be Nikon, because I have recently spent €300 on a 70-300mm lens, and I don’t want to spend that kind of money if I don’t have to. Which means that Z50 it is.
And then instead of spending €300 on a new lens, Tamius spent €30012Okay, FTZ is €260 and the 50-250mm Z-mount lens is €360 … so things aren’t quite as bad … Except that Z50 + 16-50mm + 50-250mm kit was about €500 over Z50 body. on the FTZ adapter instead. Yay for sunk costs.
Z50 seems to get a lot of shit on the internet, mostly because it’s ASP-C instead of full frame. But it’s also half the price of its full-frame equivalent Z6 that outperforms Z50 by one ISO step, so I don’t really care. I know that pro photographers will get triggered23Assuming they’d stumble over this blog, but it’s not like anyone is reading this., but I’m not a pro photographer. I only cosplay as one. Sometimes.
If you’re dropping big moneys on a proper camera, you’re probably doing so because you want to have the ability to edit your photos after you’ve taken them. To my knowledge, there’s about three serious programs for photo editing:
For me, Lightroom is off the table. Not only does it cost money, it’s a) made by Adobe and b) no Linux. Meanwhile, RawTherapee and Darktable are both open source and therefore come both in Linux and Windows variety. This is neat, because while I do sometimes use Windows (and sometimes I’m even kinda forced to — Surface Pro 7 comes to mind, with no multi-touch and pen on Linux), I consider myself primarily a Linux user.
Up until recently, my go-to program was RawTherapee. I didn’t care much about Darktable — having found RawTherapee first — Darktable’s UI was too radically different for me to give it a proper, honest try when RawTherapee did its job just fine. But lately, RawTherapee started showing some problems.
RawTherapee’s Noise Reduction is Kinda Trash
Turns out that there’s a little bit of difference in terms of ISO noise between D3100 and Z50. Most notably, D3100 noise appears to mostly on brightness rather than color, whereas most of the noise on Z50 happens in chrominance.
While RawTherapee managed to deal just fine with the noise in D3100 photos, its noise reduction algorithm simply doesn’t produce usable results on Z50. This became apparent when I sat down to edit my pictures I took during my first evening indoors shooting during a cosplay event.
So let’s talk a bit about my artificer costume. The coat and the cape come in blue with a golden trim. It looks pretty dope in real life, but RawTherapee’s noise reduction really doesn’t like thin gold lines across blue background. Using default chrominance settings for noise reductions, the gold will lose all the gold by the time you crank your noise reduction high enough to bring noise down to reasonable levels. While normally I’d try to solve this problem by changing blue/yellow slider under chrominance noise reduction settings … with Z50’s noise being mostly chrominance, reducing blue/yellow noise reduction resulted in black spots.
To make things worse — Z50 can do noise reduction while saving jpg files, and the noise reduction by Z50 is massively superior to what RawTherapee can do.
The bottom two images are kinda like my chocolate bar bowl: there’s snickers and twix, but no bueno. Is this going to annoy me into trying out Darktable?
I Got Annoyed into Trying Out Darktable
I don’t think I have to say anything else, really. The results are noticeably better than in RawTherapee. Though there’s certain aspects of it that I don’t like (the image can look like horribly compressed image from early internet), the end result is significantly better.
I managed to get hang of Darktable in less than an evening, and I guess I can see why people like it. Sometimes, Darktable’s options seem to be grouped much more sensibly, and the program as a whole seems to be much more responsive than RawTherapee … as well as mildly easier to use. RawTherapee almost requires you to know what the hell you’re doing. Darktable?
However … the experience wasn’t completely positive.
For one, Darktable seems to be noticeably less stable and more glitchy. I’ve used Darktable for a grand total of two days and about under 5 hours total at the time of writing this blog, and I’ve had two crashes so far. This is two more than RawTherapee in the past 10 years. Now, you could say that it’s unfair for me to use Darktable on Windows (as open source software often runs better on Linux), but then again … RawTherapee was also used on both Windows and Linux extensively. In addition to that, cropping seems to be currently glitched … though this will probably no longer be the case by the time anyone stumbles over this blogposts.
I also find it easier to deal with highlights in RawTherapee. In Rawtherapee, I could deal with the horrifically overexposed background. It wasn’t terribly good, but it was decent as far as I’m concerned. Meanwhile, the closest I could come with Darktable is the comparison on the bottom.
I couldn’t come close to Rawtherapee image no matter what I did: I could either have the background overexposed as hell, or I could have the projector screen in the background look like an old LCD viewed from an angle. That’s probably because I’ve used RawTherapee for years and Darktable for days, but the point still stands: I guess I’ll be using both for at least a little while.
Not that I’m a professional photographers, but here’s some pics
For context — this was a cosplay event.
By the way — the camera does have a flicker reduction setting … but for some reason it doesn’t work when you’re shooting in silent mode. I figured that out … waaay too late.