Nikon D200 White Balance Test

ksz

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 28, 2003
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San Jose, CA
In a recent set of pictures I took during a hike I found that there was an unpleasing color cast in all of them. I find myself increasingly shooting in JPEG not only for the ability to store more images, but also because I do not have the time to manually process a bunch of RAW images. If I can get very pleasing results straight out of the camera, so much the better.

Now there are times when the added post-processing potential of RAW is needed, but we should still be able to get great results without it.

After browsing through DP Review's forums, I found that the D200's Auto White Balance should not be trusted. The color cast in my hiking photos was most likely due to this. Instead of blindly using the preset Sunny, Cloudy, Shade, Fluorescent, and Tungsten modes, I decided to see what a custom white balance with a neutral gray card could do.

Here are my quick test results. Custom White Balance shots are in the middle of each sequence so they can be easily compared to their neighbors.

First, my room lit by indirect sunlight.

Auto White Balance:

Custom White Balance with Neutral Gray Card:

Preset Shade:



Next, I tested fluorescent light.

Auto White Balance:

Custom White Balance with Neutral Gray Card:

Preset Fluorescent:


Finally, I checked tungsten light.

Auto White Balance:

Custom White Balance with Neutral Gray Card:

Present Tungsten:


Conclusion:

Custom White Balance with a Neutral Gray Card makes a huge difference. I'm going to be using this as much as possible.
 

ksz

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 28, 2003
1,669
60
San Jose, CA
Part II: Outdoors

I got mixed results when shooting outdoors. It seems the Sunny and Shade presets are quite well calibrated. Auto WB was consistently the poor performer, and manual white balance with a neutral gray card produced satisfactory results, although subjectively speaking I think Nikon's Sunny and Shade settings are best.

First, outdoor shade:

Auto WB:

Custom White Balance with Neutral Gray Card: (My #2 preference)

Preset Shade: (My #1 preference)


Now direct sunlight:

Auto WB:

Custom White Balance with Neutral Gray Card: (My #2 preference)

Preset Sunny: (My #1 preference)
 

Abstract

macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
24,415
124
Location Location Location
The auto white balance setting for the two sets of outdoor shots isn't so bad, IMO. I think it's probably most accurate, although I like warmer photos, so I tend to pick the slightly warmer photos even though it's not accurate (although I have the sense to reject the photos that are much too warm.
 

pdxflint

macrumors 68020
Aug 25, 2006
2,407
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Oregon coast
What was your method of doing the custom white balance with gray card? Do you have to carry one with you and set it for each situation. Also, how do you set the WB using the gray card? Is it like metering off a gray card, but using the camera through the lens, and taking an exposure/shot first? I'm curious because I just got a D50, and haven't read the manual yet... (I just fall asleep reading manuals in general... :eek: )
 

Silentwave

macrumors 68000
May 26, 2006
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Gainesville, FL
While I agree a preset WB is usually best, I find the D200's AWB to be fantastic in my experience- literally since day 1 of its availability. A good idea is to play around with the 'fine tuning' steps (+/- 3) for your particular situation to really nail the WB, or even better, use Kelvin WB.

Remember there are a few types of fluorescent light, so color can vary greatly. the TV room in my school is perfect for Fluorescent-0, other rooms may be +1.

For tungsten I *always* use Kelvin.
 

ksz

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 28, 2003
1,669
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San Jose, CA
pdxflint said:
What was your method of doing the custom white balance with gray card? Do you have to carry one with you and set it for each situation. Also, how do you set the WB using the gray card? Is it like metering off a gray card, but using the camera through the lens, and taking an exposure/shot first? I'm curious because I just got a D50, and haven't read the manual yet... (I just fall asleep reading manuals in general... :eek: )
On a D200, while balance can be calibrated with a gray card as follows:

1. Set the WB mode to Pre.
2. Release WB button and press it again and hold it for 2 seconds.
3. 'Pre' starts to blink.
4. Place gray card on subject, step back, zoom until gray card fills the viewfinder, then press the shutter release button all the way.
5. A picture won't be taken, but the camera will register the gray value and the LCD will show the word "good," indicating that the value was registered.
6. Now recompose and take the picture.
7. You can also store the registered WB value for later use.
 

FrankieTDouglas

macrumors 65816
Mar 10, 2005
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Does anyone else just shoot in automatic WB and RAW, and then fine-tune the WB later on in post?

I'm under the impression that it's all raw data variables so you could just as easily get the same shot in post as you would on the shoot?
 

Abstract

macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
24,415
124
Location Location Location
Well if you're really that unsure of the white balance, and if you look at the LCD and you can already see that the WB is a bit off under that particular lighting, then shoot the shots under that lighting in RAW, especially if it's only a few photos.

But yes, I can understand why you'd only shoot most of your photos as JPEGs.
 

beavo451

macrumors 6502
Jun 22, 2006
483
2
FrankieTDouglas said:
Does anyone else just shoot in automatic WB and RAW, and then fine-tune the WB later on in post?

I'm under the impression that it's all raw data variables so you could just as easily get the same shot in post as you would on the shoot?
I do that. Usually, I am at a shoot that is too fast paced to break out a grey card and take WB measurements.
 

ksz

macrumors 68000
Original poster
Oct 28, 2003
1,669
60
San Jose, CA
Abstract said:
Well if you're really that unsure of the white balance, and if you look at the LCD and you can already see that the WB is a bit off under that particular lighting, then shoot the shots under that lighting in RAW, especially if it's only a few photos.
When there's a moderate but not severe color cast, the picture on my LCD looks all right. On the computer, in all its pixel glory, the cast is plain to see. As SilentWave suggests, one can adjust even the presets, so this might be a more practical solution. In mixed light, however, a gray card is probably the best option.

But yes, I can understand why you'd only shoot most of your photos as JPEGs.
Of course. I want to be able to get great results straight out of the camera. Post-processing should not be required for each and every shot.
 

pdxflint

macrumors 68020
Aug 25, 2006
2,407
14
Oregon coast
ksz said:
On a D200, while balance can be calibrated with a gray card as follows:

1. Set the WB mode to Pre.
2. Release WB button and press it again and hold it for 2 seconds.
3. 'Pre' starts to blink.
4. Place gray card on subject, step back, zoom until gray card fills the viewfinder, then press the shutter release button all the way.
5. A picture won't be taken, but the camera will register the gray value and the LCD will show the word "good," indicating that the value was registered.
6. Now recompose and take the picture.
7. You can also store the registered WB value for later use.
Thanks for sharing... I'll give it a try on my D50, and perhaps get out the manual too...
 

Silentwave

macrumors 68000
May 26, 2006
1,584
0
Gainesville, FL
FrankieTDouglas said:
Does anyone else just shoot in automatic WB and RAW, and then fine-tune the WB later on in post?

I'm under the impression that it's all raw data variables so you could just as easily get the same shot in post as you would on the shoot?
Part 1- Yes, unless its critical

Part 2- Not quite....you'll get a much better result especially at high ISO if you get your WB close when you shoot instead of correcting for huge errors in post processing..