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Color-Crayons

Introduction

This page examines color rendition using every 4-year-old’s exciting box of 96 Crayola crayons. The colors are varied and vibrant, and some are quite bright, almost fluorescent-looking, and so they are a challenging test subject, offering both a wide gamut of color, and a wide range of luminosity (brightness).

The images on this page should be viewed on  a color-calibrated display.  The author evaluated the images on a color-calibrated Apple Cinema Display (Gamma 2.2, 6500K).  There are more accurate displays available, but it is reasonably good.

The example images used below were shot at 1/80 second @ f8 with the 60mm/f2.8D Micro Nikkor using sunlight bounced off a large reflector.

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Raw-file Processing

Each image was color balanced within Nikon Capture using the 3rd-lightest gray patch (the pure white patch being the 1st-lightest). The Tone=Low Contrast setting was used.

For this comparison, no adjustments were made to match the black and white patches, unlike on the Macbeth Color Checker page.

The images were saved from Nikon Capture as 16-bit TIF files in ProPhoto RGB color space. In Photoshop, the 16 bit images were converted from ProPhoto RGB to 16 bit Lab.

Dynamic range limitations with the D2x

Though not planned as an example of dynamic range, this example shows again that the D2x cannot handle as wide a dynamic range as the D200 (see alsoDynamic Range) . The preferred exposure for the D200 was 1/60 @ f8, but at that exposure the D2x suffered clipped highlights.

Shown below are the two exposures at 1/60 second. The white patch, white crayon and bright yellows have been clipped in the D2x image. Click to see a larger version.

D200, 1/60 @ f8
highlights not clipped

D2x, 1/60 @ f8
clipped highlights

Gamut Check

A gamut check was made in Adobe Photoshop for Epson Premium Glossy Photo Paper on the Epson R2400 printer. For both cameras, all crayons were within gamut for that paper/printer.

Another gamut check was made for the sRGB color space. A number of the bright crayons are out of gamut in the sRGB color space, shown below as gray for the out-of-gamut areas. Click on each image below to see a larger version.

sRGB out-of-gamut colors
D200
D2x

Comparison

Shown below are the crops for the D200 and D2x, with the sRGB colorspace version on top. In a non-colorspace-aware browser, the bottom image (in ProPhoto RGB) will look desaturated (see Web Browser Color Display at diglloyd.com for details). You might want to open the images in a colorspace-aware program instead, such as Adobe Photoshop.

Depending on the gamut of your monitor, you might or might not be able to see the difference between the sRGB and ProPhoto RGB versions. Please read on for comments.

D200
top: sRGB, bottom: ProPhoto RGB
 

D2x
top: sRGB, bottom: ProPhoto RGB
 
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Comparing prints

Comparing the images on screen in ProPhoto RGB (using layers in Photoshop) reveals the increased saturation of the D2x image in the bright reds and yellows. I also compared prints from each camera under direct and indirect sunlight. Unlike the Macbeth Color Checker test, I found it hard to see color or saturation differences in the prints; they were so close to identical that I found myself double-checking that I hadn’t printed the same camera’s image twice! Slight softness in the D2x image clearly distinguishes the two results however (yet another focus error by the D2x!).

In short, the color from the two cameras is virtually identical once printed.

Comparing to the original crayons

For both the D200 and D2x prints, I held each of the six boxes of crayons next to the print so that I could detect any color shifts. I could detect none —within the limits of my eyes, the lighting (indirect sunlight) and the reflective/transmissive nature of original crayons and printed image.

There were of course differences. Resolution limits blurred out sparkles in some of the crayons, and some were near-fluorescent in appearance. The printed version of those crayons matched in color, but lacked the intense saturation and “wow” color that the original crayon displayed. Such is the case with many prints; captured color is limited to the gamut of the capture device, ink set, and DMax of the paper used.

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Conclusions

The D200 and D2x exhibited near-identical color in this test, but with the D2x showing higher saturation in the bright reds/oranges/yellows and a few greens and blues. Both cameras did a stellar job of reproducing the crayons with no obvious color variation from the originals.

The D200 again demonstrated a higher dynamic range in that the 1/60 second exposure could not be used from the D2x due to clipped highlights, whereas the D200 held the highlights (the 1/80 second exposure was used instead for both cameras).



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