As I have promised in this blog post about the „portrait“ color mode, I went over the 10 color modes available in SPP 6.2 with a fine-tooth comb. To this end I imported a Quattro X3F in SPP and exported it ten times consecutively as a 16 bit TIFF. All settings were left at 0, except noise reduction and sharpness. NR was switched off (“dots” for chroma and luminance all the way to the left) and sharpness set to -1.3. After that I imported all the photos in Lightrom and without doing any processing exported them as JPGs. Lastly I adjusted the two images “portrait” and “standard” (which you can see all the way down) in LR to look as similar as possible and then made the four crops.
What I find very important is that an image in its unprocessed state has as much headroom in the shadows and in the highlights as possible, and that the colors look as realistic and “neutral” as possible. This means, they should neither look dull nor oversaturated. As you can see below, most of the color modes don’t meet these criteria. Only “standard” and “portrait” are universally usable. “Neutral” would be number among them, if the colors weren’t so dull. But as things stand, “portrait” with its more vibrant colors and almost identical tonal range is the better “neutral” color mode. The remaining color modes are akin to “art filters”, which as of late every camera must have, and which you only use when you feel like it. 😉
Even more interesting than color rendition and tonal range are the differences which can only be seen while pixel peeping. As I’ve written in the blog post linked to above, I’ve had a feeling for a long time that “portrait” produces the creamiest bokeh out of all the color modes. But before doing this comparison, I wasn’t sure what the reason for this is.
As you can see by looking at the crops, „standard“ has a higher level of sharpness and microcontrast. Meaning, noise is more accentuated and contrast edges look like someone had upped “clarity”. Looking at the single threads of the spiderweb, one can make out weak “halos”, when quickly switching back and forth between the crops. Needless to say, when taking photos of landscapes high sharpness and high microcontrast are an advantage. But when making use of shallow depth of field, high microcontrast also affects contrast edges of bokeh balls/circles. These seem undoubtedly sharper in the „standard“ color mode, which makes the bokeh look nervous. In addition the entire photo seems grainy and harsh, due to the much more pronounced noise. For this reason I consider “portrait” to be the color mode best suited for this kind of photos.