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Old Oct 10, 2005, 7:58 AM   #11
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Thanks Andrea...

Please excuse my ignorance on this subject.

To be frank, I had no idea what to expect (I didn't know if you'd need something like 30 second exposures at wide open apertures and higher ISO speedsor not, trying to take a photo of something that occupies an area even smaller ).

That's really facinatingwork (at least to me).

Dynamic range is one of the problems you hear complained about most often with a Digital Camera. Unfortuntely, you don't really see it measured very often, and when you do, the tests are often suspect.

Manufacturers have made some claims from time to time. For example, the older 2 Megapixel Kodak Pro DSC-720x had a 9 stop dynamic range according to Kodak (and that was using image processing techology from 4 years ago). I still think the images from this old model look better than the images from most cameras Steve has reviewed here (resolution aside). Although the images you'll see in the samples were shot in raw and processed using the software available at the time (and the contrast was set a bit high to add more "punch" to the images).

It was also calibrated to ISO 4000, and could be used at up to ISO 6400 in a pinch (although it was noisy at the higher settings, the images clean up well with modern tools).

Isometimes think we're going backwards with sensor design (because of the "megapixel race"). I often wish that manufacturers would focus more on improving ISO sensitivty and dynamic range with existing resolution, versus trying to stuff more and more photosites into a sensor (since most consumers don't print at larger sizes warranting increased resolution anyway).

There are some DSLR solutions with better dynamic range now. One of the newer oneseven has the ability to do a live feed from the CCD for up to 30 seconds using a mirror lockup function (for example, the new Fuji S3 Pro).

I've seen some tests of dynamic range for some of the other DSLR models around I'd like to examine, too.

There are also some techniques for combining multiple exposures using software to improve dynamic range (or even shooting one frame in raw, which takes the data generated by the sensor without processing it in the camera, then processing it to expose the shadows, processing again for the highlights, and then combining the two saved images together in software. But, this would add time to your workflow.

Some of the digital backs also have outstanding dynamic range. But, at the same time, it would be a shame to spend that much money if a much lower cost solution would suffice.

As for longer exposure capability when needed from some of the cameras you'll find on the market, quality and capability can vary a lot. So, when I say a DSLR is much better, that's only on average. Some DSLR models are actually worse than consumer models in this area. So, you really need to take each camera on a case by case basis. The larger photosites for each pixel can make a huge difference in many cases. But, there are exceptions, too.

I've got to run out for a while this morning, and need to start getting ready right now. Let me give it some thought when I get back. I hate for you to spend a lot more than really needed to get the job done, especially given the convenience factor.



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Old Oct 10, 2005, 8:10 AM   #12
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Thanks a lot for your helpful comments, Jim. I guess you are in good company with all the people who have not heard before about our obscure gel photography ;-)

I could well imagine that RAW format and dedicated postprocessing could do a lot. Is there something where I can shoot, process/enhance, and print in one program? Then using the computer would not be too bad. Most of the remote capture programs I have seen only generate the picture, but do not do the rest so we have to take the file into a second program which is a nuisance ;-)
Cheers
Andreas
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Old Oct 10, 2005, 10:17 AM   #13
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While a dSLR has potential for greater quality images, the point of a consumer based digital system is to save money (is it not?). If you weren't concerned about that, you'd be looking into a 10-bit or 12-bit scientific grade camera system.

Needless to say, the digital systems you're looking into typically have much higher resolution (which isn't to say that is needed). I work in the field and most customers find even 1 megapixel enough to print and analyze for quality. The real trick here is the dynamic range, but you aren't going to get that out of a cheap digital system.

I wish I had more input for you, but I don't...but, I'm interested in knowing what you decide on in the end. Good luck in your search.
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Old Oct 10, 2005, 10:29 AM   #14
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Thanks for your feedback, swgod98.
You are right that a "proper" scientific camera would be much better in terms of image quality, and for applications other than gel imaging we are using these. I am thinking about this gel system because what is currently on the market for gels looks under par for an inexpensive digicam in terms of picture AND handling, and is massively overpriced on top of this.
One could build a SLR based system for a lot less than what the commercial compact camera systems are going for, so if it is better it would be worth it.
If it is the consensus that I cannot expect more image quality from ANY consumer grade camera, compact or SLR, I will concentrate on handling, and still have a better system for less money.
Best wishes
Andreas
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Old Oct 10, 2005, 2:00 PM   #15
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Another question...

What are you looking for in the bands?

For example, is it necessary to examine the intensity of the bands for your purposes?

If so,using other techniques to increase dynamic range could skew the results.

For example,using multiple exposures or simulating multiple exposures set diferently would skew the results and need to be taken into consideration (I guess you could calculate the differences in exposure used or simulated to get it close though).

For that matter, the way the image is being processed insideof the camera using jpeg, or outside of the camera shooting in raw would also need to be taken into consideration, depending on what you're looking for.

Could you explain what you're actually looking for, so we'd know more on what to look for that could impact results for your use (intensity of bands, detail or band size measurements or ratios to each other, requiring a certain amount of detail taking image size into consideration or something?

Or, is it something pretty simple? :-)

Again,I'm ignorantinthis area.


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Old Oct 10, 2005, 2:19 PM   #16
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Good question.
Mostly our interest in band intensity is semi-quantitive, i.e. we'd like to have rough feel for relative intensities to decide if the experiment makes sense or not.
The situation that we are interested in the exact numerical value of intensity is very rare with that type of gel, and would be answered with a more sophisticated kind of kit.

So, as long as the relative intensity of bands on the same gel is not completely distorted we should be fine. I have played with a couple of auto-contrast functions (e.g. in Picasa) which actually worked quite nicely to enhance the information, not spectaculary so, but possibly useful. Have not knowingly tried any noise reduction on long exposure.
This whole complex of questions is highly dependent on whether we can use these functions from within a program that also does the shooting and printing. A solution where we would have to shoot, save, open, optimize, try again etc would be too time consuming. If there is a good general purpose remote capture cum post-process/print program that would be very interesting.

As for RAW vs JPEG, memory size is not an issue, I think. If RAW is better and software is available than this is the choice.
Thanks again for thinking so hard about my little problem.
Best wishes
Andreas

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Old Oct 10, 2005, 2:37 PM   #17
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http://www.steves-digicams.com/2005_reviews/r1.html
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Old Oct 10, 2005, 3:23 PM   #18
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Thanks! Looks good, can you run me through what would be superior to a Coolpix 8800 or a G6?
Cheers
Andreas
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Old Oct 10, 2005, 4:11 PM   #19
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Until a full review is posted, no one knows if it will be as good as it appears; however, it looks to fit your needs quite well. High resolution, high ISO, low noise, multi-angle LCD, manual focus, direct printing from camera to printer. Please take the time to read Steve's first look. You should be able to tell if it will work for you. After all, microbiology isn't rocket science. :blah:
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Old Oct 10, 2005, 4:18 PM   #20
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Sounds good indeed. I hope that the chip is comparable to SLR quality. I also liked the wired remote, good for our dirty fingers ;-)
Do you happen to know anything about Sony remote capture software?
Thanks again and cheers
Andreas
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