|About reducing contrast to reduce
clipped highlights on the Coolpix 5000.
The Coolpix 5000 has a tendency to clip highlights and
for most outdoor shots a compensation of at least minus 0.3 EV is
recommended. From the histogram in playback mode you can determine
whether you need to compensate more or not. As mentioned in my Coolpix
5000 Second Opinion at dpreview.com and in the Dynamic
Range Tutorial on this site, the best dynamic range can be achieved
by combining two or more shots (see also example 6. below). However,
in most cases, especially those with moving objects, we can only
take one shot.
Besides reducing EV, reducing contrast and saturation can help but
should be used with caution. As shown in picture 3. below, reducing
contrast has much more impact on the histogram than reducing saturation.
Reducing contrast will, by definition, reduce the tonal range of
the histogram. If later you stretch the histogram by software, "gaps"
and "combing" will appear which can lead to "posterization"
if too much stretching is required. The "-1" setting in
the Coolpix 5000 has about the same effect as a -0.7 to -1.0 EV
reduction and is in certain situations an overkill, so that you
need to undo some of the effect by increasing the EV again, as shown
The can result in a histogram with a smaller tonal range than by
just reducing the EV.
In certain situations, especially those where high EV reductions
are needed to remove clipped highlights AND whereby the shadows
start to become clipped instead, reducing the contrast can often,
but not always, preserve more shadow detail, at the cost of a smaller
tonal range, as can be seen from the histograms 3. and 5. below.
I have shot hundreds of samples and the conclusion is that every
situation is different, so leaving the saturation permanently to
"-1" is more risky than leaving the EV at -0.3 EV. It
works best of course, as one would expect, in very contrasty situations.
The histogram of 6. is clearly the best because highlights are removed,
shadow detail is preserved while still maintaining a decent tonal
range. It combines shot 2. as a top layer with a luminance mask,
followed by shot 2. at 60% opacity and shot 1 at 100% opacity as
the bottom layer.
Conclusion: contrast reduction (effect can
be increased slightly by reducing saturation as well) can help to
reduce clipped highlights, especially in situations where high EV
reduction is needed and where it would clip the shadows. Contrast
reduction should be used with caution and is certainly not a "one
size fits all" setting.