The Hugest Color Difference Between Cameras

A little while ago I wrote a piece regarding the biggest difference in color rendering between different cameras of similar technologies (two CMOS sensors etc) was white balance. Specifically a particular manufacturer's auto WB method and tendencies and a particular manufacturer's take on what the heck daylight looks like in terms of temperature and tint. Those things are actually related but that's a discussion for another day.

That post was driven for the most part by a discussion I was having with a twitter buddy regarding the Fuji cameras, film, and color rendition. To summarize that conversation and resulting post I took two RAW files from cameras considered worlds apart in terms of color (Nikon D7000 and Fuji XPRO-1) of a colorchecker card months and months apart, at two different times of year, at two different times of day in but both in sunlight and used LR4 to do a one-click white balance neutralization between the two - not even trying to match exposure or contrast exactly.

The results when viewed are much much closer that most people would imagine given the internet descriptions of Fuji color and Nikon color. I then also went on to say any idiotically minor differences were due to be relative exposure differences and mid-tone contrast variations due to that minor exposure difference far far far far far more than actual hue. What I didn't show was that whole white balance "take" on things.

Since I was testing StupidCrap™ today in preparation for an actual shoot Monday I figured I would chuck a colorchecker card in the sun and shoot it with both cameras with white balance set to "daylight". I also shot them at the same exact exposure but that didn't work out because the D600 seems to be about 2/3 to 1 whole stop faster in actual ISO than the Fuji X100 I was comparing so I just did a quick mid-tone match up to make the histograms match when processing the RAW files.

The shot at the top is the D600 set to daylight/sunshine white balance. The following is the Fuji X100 set to daylight white balance.

Wow that's a bit different take on what the heck daylight is. Before you ask - yes that is a difference in White Balance not color. In other words the gray is significantly warmer in the Nikon shot and significantly cooler in the Fuji shot. In Auto WB the Nikon is crazy accurate compared to setting the WB for the neutral gray target. I mean crazy accurate as in exactly the same temperature and tint on 2 out of 3 samples of the eyedropper. The farthest off it happened to be in one sample of gray was about 50 points in temp and 1 point in tint. Not that those values are meaningful because the relative values for a heck of a lot of cameras have nothing to do with each other. In other words you cannot compare the numbers you see in Lightroom or Aperture between camera brands even when both are neutralized. The Fuji take on daylight is pretty cool by comparison.

Now what happens when we neutralize them? Here is the D600…

Now the Fuji…

Not going to bother to get them any closer. Are there differences between the files now? Yea a tiny bit but again this has way more to do with a slight exposure and mid-tone contrast difference. Are there practical differences - sure. When shooting auto WB or even preset daylight WB there are huge differences if you don't touch WB in post. Of course there are differences in the JPEG renderings as well if you shoot JPEG. If you shoot RAW not so much unless you don't touch the RAW files. If you do you can pretty much get whatever rendering you like by nudging temp and tint a tiny little bit one way or another. If you touch the HSL controls you are more likely to make a much much bigger difference in color than your particular choice of camera.

Just some food for thought.


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