* Current DSLRs are in the 10-12 stop range. (Note: the newest FF bodies from Canon and Nikon haven't been tested yet.)
* Print film has 9-14 stops depending on emulsion.
dtaylor: Print film is more forgiving, yes, but I've always found it hard to compare the stops of DR in print film vs. digital b/c it boils down to: how much noise are you willing to accept in the shadows? If you look at Roger Clark's treatise on DR (http://www.clarkvision.com/articles/dynamicrange2/
), negative film falls apart so quickly that its acceptable
DR is significantly lower than that of even earlier generation DSLRs & almost on par w/ some slide films (though with Velvia, e.g., the actual signal is very low so that, even with lower noise, it may be hard to extract that signal without a drum scanner). However, latitude with slide film is terrible; I'm always afraid of clipping shadows or blowing highlights. With negative film, I overexpose a sunset by 3 stops & still retain color around the sun. But the shadows are still starving for exposure & are just obliterated by noise! For example, here's a shot overexposed by 2 2/3 stops (as compared to what Evaluative Metering thought the exposure should be on a EOS-3):
Ektar did well, considering the DR of the scene (the sun is still high up in the sky). But those rocks are incredibly noisy upon closer inspection.
So it's my opinion that your estimation of the DR of negative film is highly dependent upon your subjective opinion of acceptable SNR in the shadows.
Which is why DXO attempts to standardize measurements by setting that acceptable SNR to 1 in their measurements. But, like you, I have my doubts of DXO measurements when they claim the D800 has 1.4 stops more DR than the D4, normalized or not. At a pixel level (not normalized), DXO claims 13.24 stops DR for the D800, but only 13.1 stops for D4 normalized
(so, less at the pixel level). That just doesn't make any sense.
True, but print film quickly fell apart on the shadow side.
Exactly. You said it yourself
"For Maximum S/N Ratio [i.e., image quality]
"The simple lesson to be learned from this is to bias your exposures so that the histogram is snugged up to the right, but not to the point that the highlights are blown.
Agreed, but this brings up another issue I've had with most RAW converters/image processing software I've had for a while -- when you ETTR, even without blowing out channels, you quickly desaturate bright regions like skies. Software doesn't make it easy for you to recover those tones, which is why I've often found myself being careful about how much I ETTR when I want saturated skies in my final photo. Lightroom 4 is changing that with their 'highlights' & 'whites' slider, which now allow you to really pull back color/tones from bright regions of your photograph. Aperture/Photoshop has allowed you to do this, with limited ability, with their 'Highlights/Shadows' tools for some time now... but I never found it to be enough or as good as LR 4 now.
Where the DR limitations come in, shadows at low iso, is NOISE.
When you start to brighten those shadows you may also start to see more chroma noise show up in those areas. If the noise is random it's more acceptable and easier to minimize its appearance.
If the noise has a pattern to it, banding, cross-hatching or similar, then it's very difficult to impossible to remove the appearance of this noise.
This is where the Canon vs Sony-Nikon sensor argument arrises.
One company's sensors have more pattern noise at low iso shadows than the other company's, thus limiting the ability to boost shadows and achieve an effective HDR image from one exposure.
EXACTLY. Thank you for concisely stating the reason why some of us care about banding in so-called 'useless shots taken with the lens cap on'.