Color Science and the Ellsworth Kelly Chapel

Ellsworth Kelly Chapel - Austin, Texas

Ellsworth Kelly Chapel – Austin, Texas

We had our first sunny day today after two weeks of daily rain. I celebrated by going down to the University of Texas and shooting the new Ellsworth Kelly Chapel. It’s an art installation located next to the Blanton Museum. I brought my 14-year-old Olympus E-300 DSLR and my Canon G7X Mark II.

On the recent reviews of the Canon and Nikon mirrorless cameras, I’ve heard reviewers talk about Color Science. It’s a fancy word for something I’ve mentioned before — that all manufacturers have their own color and look. It’s an important consideration. One that people don’t think enough about. Shooting RAW allows you to manipulate colors but why not start with a color palette you like, in the first place. It makes life a lot easier.

I didn’t intended this post to be a discussion about color until I saw the results I got from my two cameras. It is a bit ironic since Artist Ellsworth Kelly was known for his color. And this chapel, with its graphical stained glass windows, is also a celebration of color. I didn’t shoot inside today, arriving almost at closing. The interior is something I’m forward to.

Ellsworth Kelly Chapel - Austin, Texas

I shot the photo at the very top with the Olympus E-300. This vintage camera uses a CCD sensor that gives a different look and feel from the modern digitals. Compare that with the photo above, shot with the Canon G7X Mark II. The Canon photo looks fine, but I much prefer the mellow and warm colors from the CCD Olympus. I shot both in RAW and some quick adjustments on the Olympus photo rendered something I really like.

I did a lot more to the Canon RAW and I still don’t like it nearly as much. I suppose a more skillful post-processor might be able to match colors, but that’s more time and effort than I would not like to spend. Starting with a good color base, even with a RAW, is very helpful.

Of course your taste will be different. After all, color is subjective. But, when deciding between cameras, take a look at the colors from each. I would argue that color is often more noticeable than tiny variances in sharpness, resolution and high-ISO noise levels.

Ellsworth Kelly Chapel - Austin, Texas
Ellsworth Kelly Chapel - Austin, Texas

Here are closeups, with the Olympus on top and the Canon below. You can see that they maintain the same color differences.

The other thing to point out is that, from these web sizes, you really can’t make out any image resolution differences. You can click on the image to see a larger version and, even still, the level of detail remains the same. The 14-year-old Olympus is a 8MP camera, while the modern Canon compact shoots at 20MP.

While the resolution and sharpness are indistinguishable at these sizes, color stands out. Something to consider before you drive yourself crazy looking for the ultimate detail and sharpness in a new fangled uber camera.


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