A few weeks ago I gave my friend Bob from The Dragtime News the link to the Nikon Image Space folder where I house my NHRA Summernationals photographs. His (awesome!) website is dedicated to drag racing, especially Sportsman and Bracket events, and was there at the Nats taking pictures, too.
Bob is a fellow Nikon enthusiast and drag racer like myself. When we spoke recently, he was still learning how to use his brand new D750. I gave him a few pointers to try based on my own experiences shooting races after jumping up to a more advanced model myself. And when he mentioned that his .raw files were not as sharp as he was expecting I knew what the problem was. He uses good glass and the D750 is a great camera. His issue was not with one or the other but with both together.
SIDE NOTE ON IMAGE FILES: Unlike a .jpg (or JPEG) file which are images that are processed and then compressed within the camera based on algorithms that the manufacturer sets, .raw files are not. For you pre-Millennials, think of it as undeveloped film. The .raw file has all the original unadulterated digital information that the camera sensor recorded. With more information on hand, experienced users can produce a better final image. But that’s a tedious method better left for the fine art and commercial photographers who aren’t shooting 400 images in a session. For me, if I’m shooting more than just a handful of important shots I will skip ahead to JPEG (usually the largest and finest JPEG files my camera will allow) and then make whatever post production adjustments are necessary at that point.
Even the best cameras and lenses out there have some inherent weakness depending shooting conditions – some far less noticeable than others. Sure you can buy cameras and lenses that are near-perfect, but you’ll need a hefty bank account or business that can write off the expense to get there. I’ve seen some lenses alone sell for over $5,000! The Canon EF 200mm f/2L IS USM lens, for instance, retails for $5,699 and that’s still far from being the most expensive lens out there. For the rest of us, we routinely give up a little bit of perfection in order to afford a camera that fits our needs and budget. And with that, we get a variety of imperfections in our images based on the camera/lens combination. Sometimes the artifact is so slight that you aren’t even aware of it until it’s corrected.
I was never more aware of the limitations of my own equipment than when I purchased DxO OpticsPro. Like Bob, I was not getting the sharpness I expected from my images no matter how I shot. I came across the DxO vendor booth at the PDN PhotoPlus Expo – an awesome FREE exposition held annually every October at New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center for both professional photographers and the public. DxO showed me how their software analyzes and improves any image based on unique algorithms developed for your specific lens-camera combination.
From the moment I started using the software I noticed a marked improvement in all of my images. Distortion (which I wasn’t even aware of before)? Gone. Vignetting? Gone. Chromatic aberrations? Gone. All of my images were sharper. Slight exposure setting and lighting issues were corrected as well, resulting in me spending far less time post-processing and more time enjoying my images. I now batch process all of my images in DxO as soon as their upload to my pc from my camera.
You can preview adjustments before the files are formally processed. And you can do before-and-after comparisons, too.
With each new version comes more camera/lens combos, improved processing, and more features. Bob just downloaded OpticsPro 11 this week. I can’t wait to see his results. I’m still on OpticsPro 8 and will probably wait another year until 12 comes out since I’m already very satisfied with the improvements I saw upgrading from OP 4.
OpticsPro 11 is currently only available via download directly from the DxO website, but you can still get hard copies of version 10 from Amazon by clicking here: DxO Labs OpticsPro 10 Essential Edition Photo Enhancing Software for Macintosh & Windows