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Andrew Reid

Sony vs Canon colour science - does this explain the difference?

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

For me it's not even a case of Sony etc having to apply an 'artist's eye' to colour - it's more simple than that. The colour that Sony cameras produce just do not (reliably) look realistic to the human eye. They may be 'technically' more 'correct' but there is science to how human's perceive colour and Canon nail that more consistently. It may be a case of having to do more research into how human visual perception works and then reproducing colour accordingly, but I don't think it's all down to artistic magic - although there is an element of that in all areas of film making.

With a scientific study of what humans find pleasing and natural to the eye, it should be possible to produce colours to match, right?

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I find even if not using s-log on the a7 cameras I always have my wb dialled away from green on the 4 way adjustment.  I used to only do it for a particular led I used, but now I use the '2-3 points away from green' wb offset without fail.  even then i see an over green look.  but the wb offset trick seems to help a lot

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Wait, I thought MatthewP pretty much debunked the "1Dc sees better color than NX1" conclusion in the shootout thread with his grade comparisons (see Page 3)? That would discredit the premise of this new article about technical vs. artistic view of color and 1Dc being better than NX1 that way. I.e., if you have good color info (technically speaking), you should always be able to tweak the image to fit your artistic preferences.

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I shoot product videos in studio and have found that my Canon 5dm3, while not the best resolving quality possible, matches the colour accuracy extremely well.  That's out of the box 5dm3 video (not RAW).  When I tried the Sony a7s the colours were not correct, red was more brown than it should have been.

Really too bad, cause it means I cannot use the Sony in studio for product videos.

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"If you just want an easy life on the other hand, shoot Blackmagic raw, Canon 5D raw with Magic Lantern, Digital Bolex raw or Canon LOG on the 1D C, but be prepared for big file sizes!"

Not sure I agree there.  At least on the 1dc's part.  In C-log mode, you'd better hope you're not moving the camera in any scene where the light / exposure alternates whatsoever, as the ISO is fixed.  There is no way for the camera to adjust exposure up or down in Log mode.  Hell you cannot even do a "push" AF before a shot; it's 100% manual focus.  I am no colorist but didn't find the C-log that easy to grade either, at least to a level I liked.

As far as pure IQ 1080p I'd put the 5d3 raw perhaps a notch above the 1dc's 4k downscaled, both both images certainly have better skin tones than my FS700.  When I say better I mean "more pleasing" to my eye - I would argue the Sony is more accurate technically - who the hell wants that? :)

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For me it's not even a case of Sony etc having to apply an 'artist's eye' to colour - it's more simple than that. The colour that Sony cameras produce just do not (reliably) look realistic to the human eye. They may be 'technically' more 'correct' but there is science to how human's perceive colour and Canon nail that more consistently. It may be a case of having to do more research into how human visual perception works and then reproducing colour accordingly, but I don't think it's all down to artistic magic - although there is an element of that in all areas of film making.

With a scientific study of what humans find pleasing and natural to the eye, it should be possible to produce colours to match, right?

There is no science. It is simply a case that there are more Canon cameras out there than other brands and consequently more output from them. You get conditioned through Pavlovian responses to what you commonly see and perceive that as "normal". So when another camera produces a slightly different color, you think that it is "not quite right" but you cant really say why exactly, except to use some nonsense meaningless term like "color science".

It is always amusing to see Pavlov's dogs think they are making a choice when in fact the choice has been made for them ;)

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Why didn't you ask the manufacturers, or find some experts and ask them before writing the article?  There are two components to perception, contrast and color.  We also have two types of visual cells, cones (color, about 5%) and rods (contrast, about 95%).  I believe the reason for the predominance of green sensels is that they most accurately capture contrast, or dynamic range, of light, regardless of color.  I have NEVER met a normal person who said they saw a color difference between cameras.  I feel I see it, but when I take time to color correct I can generally get one camera to match another one.  The log profiles are major destroyers of color data.  Anyway, each camera tweaks its JPG output to its taste--espcially in H.264 where so much is baked in that can't be baked out.  In RAW, I believe there is little difference.  If there was, they would probably come out through analysis with Imatest software.

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I find even if not using s-log on the a7 cameras I always have my wb dialled away from green on the 4 way adjustment.  I used to only do it for a particular led I used, but now I use the '2-3 points away from green' wb offset without fail.  even then i see an over green look.  but the wb offset trick seems to help a lot

I agree. I always overcompensate (in post) magentas on my Sony cams, stills and video, Log or no Log.

I've always personally felt that Canon has nice color science, but not accurate, especially in stills. Sony sensors, especially on Nikon cameras, produce color more accurate to what my eye sees, but not as flattering or punchy. I prefer to have accurate but less sexy color, and then work it in post, but I can see how sexy color out of camera is appealing. I think that explains especially the predominance of Canon on the studio photography side (when not using medium format). I've noticed Fashion and commercial photographers in NYC prefer the 'Canon look,' despite the files being significantly less flexible. I've only once seen a Nikon in a studio environment, and Sony never. But I think it's also inertia, as pro photographers have invested in the system and glass and know how to work with it.

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Andrew, good article.  Colour is a critical component.  I like the basic grade at 55 seconds of your video.  The 1DC, in my opinion, is superior.  I was one of the early adopters of the 1DC, bit the bullet and took the price up the butt, however, I can't put a price on what I have learned.  Cheers.

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Because I've never been sold on Sony cams I haven't gone out of my way to watch hundreds of films shot with Sony A7 cams, but from all the examples I've seen I can't help but notice they all look brown to me. At least most all that I have seen. It started getting to the point that when I'd see a video online and see brown I'd look to see what camera it was shot with, knowing I already knew, and surely was right. It could be that all Sony users grade the same way, or to a certain point, but it leaves me looking elsewhere for my next camera. Add to that your helpful review regarding exposure and lens adapters, Andrew, and the case against them is that much harder to turn around for me.

There is no science. It is simply a case that there are more Canon cameras out there than other brands and consequently more output from them. You get conditioned through Pavlovian responses to what you commonly see and perceive that as "normal". So when another camera produces a slightly different color, you think that it is "not quite right" but you cant really say why exactly, except to use some nonsense meaningless term like "color science".

It is always amusing to see Pavlov's dogs think they are making a choice when in fact the choice has been made for them ;)

That's a good point, but doesn't simply have to do with Canon, but a lifetime of viewing pictures and viewing life. If it doesn't look like either, you have a problem. :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

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