Big Ben's Panorama Tutorials

Dynamic Range

One of my pet hates regarding photography is the proliferation of misleading hype.  Unfortunately this is also prevalent in the IT industry as well, so it should be of no surprise that digital cameras are the subject of some wild claims by manufacturers and resellers. The claims that annoy me the most relate to the dynamic range of digital cameras and how this compares to film.

Different sources will state the dynamic range of film anywhere between 5 to 8 EV  This is complete crap!!   In a controlled studio situation, photographers work on the assumption that slide film has a dynamic range around 10 EV  Negative film is known to have a greater dynamic range than slide film.  How else could a film manufacturer claim that a film could be exposed at a wide range of ISO settings and still produce a good result?

But even film manufacturers are well known for their hype.  Film speeds, for example, are calculated under carefully controlled conditions that do not necessarily produce a reasonable approximation of reality. The only real lesson in all of this is believe no one. The only way to be sure of something is to test it yourself. 

This section describes a number of simple tests that can be used to determine the dynamic range of your imaging setup without requiring fancy equipment or specialised software.  My example will be based on 35mm colour negative film (Fuji Reala) and a Nikon Coolscan LS2000.

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This page, its contents and style, are the responsibility of the author and do not represent the views, policies or opinions of The University of Melbourne. All photographs Ben Kreunen 2000

Ben Kreunen <bernardk@unimelb.edu.au>
Department of Pathology
Last modified: February 24, 2003