HDR Benefits to Upgrading Your DSLR – Episode 5 from the HDR Photography Workshop Series
The following is an excerpt from HDR Photography | A 3 DVD Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Professional HDR Photography by SLR Lounge. This workshop dubbed “the gold standard of HDR education” by FStoppers contains over 13 hours of tutorials, RAW files for you to follow along, and dozens of full prep to post examples. We cover bracketed HDR, in-camera HDR, single-shot faux HDR, single-shot bracketed HDR, panoramic HDR and more! Click here for more info.
Now that we have learned about when to shoot HDR bracketed sequences, let’s briefly discuss improvements in camera technology for higher dynamic range. High-end DLSR cameras can be quite expensive and not entirely a necessity for every photographer. HDR bracketed sequences produced by an entry-level DSLR camera can certainly create fantastic professional photographs. However, as you find yourself mastering the techniques you learned from the HDR series and if you find yourself running into limitations with your current camera, it make be worthwhile for you to upgrade your DSLR body. At this point, a more professional camera may open up more possibilities for you to be able to capture the kind of images you would like to. In this article, we will talk about improvements in sensor technology and exactly what you are paying for when buying a high-end professional DSLR.
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DSLR Sensor Technology
As you may already have noticed, a large portion of camera cost is due to the quality of its sensor. This is where the image is actually being recorded. In general, a nicer sensor can pick up a broader dynamic range. For example, and entry level DSLR may have a dynamic range of 10 stops with the camera sensor that it comes with. A more expensive professional level DSLR camera may have a range of 12 stops. An even more expensive high-end camera, such as the Nikon D800E, has a range of 14.3 stops.
Bracketing vs. Single Image
Now, you might ask:
If we are using automatic exposure bracketing (AEB), then why does it matter how broad the range of the sensor can capture if we can simply change the bracketing sequence?
Let’s say we have an entry-level DSLR with a range of 10 stops, and we are considering buying a super high-end camera that can shoot a range of 15 stops (which doesn’t actually exist yet, but I’m sure it will soon). If we shoot a three-frame, two-stop bracketed sequence on the entry-level camera, when we combine the images we have a photograph with 14 stops of dynamic range. With the high-end camera, we can get 15 stops within one single exposure. This range is more than all three images combined from the entry-level DSLR. Therefore, a high-end camera, within one single image, opens up a whole world of possibilities.
Keep in mind that you can continue to create bracketed sequences with this higher quality camera and achieve an even higher dynamic range within your photographs. If we use the high-end DSLR for a three-frame, two-stop bracketed sequence, we have a dynamic range of 19 stops, which is only one stop short of the dynamic range of the human eye.
Improvements in technology can certainly open up an array of possibilities into shooting a single-shot HDR. Of course, in many types of scenes, you can capture full-range detail without HDR. It isn’t the solution for everyone, but purchasing a more professional DSLR may open up a lot of possibilities that wouldn’t be available with an entry-level camera. However, before you go out and do that, master the techniques that are taught you in the HDR series. When you get to a point where you feel like your camera itself is preventing you from taking the kind of photographs that you want, it may be time to buy a new DSLR with a broader dynamic range.
For more HDR education, be sure to check out HDR Photography | A 3 DVD Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Professional HDR Photography by SLR Lounge. This comprehensive “gold standard” guide will give you a mastery of HDR photography, from the scene considerations to the actual shooting to the post production. Click here for more info.