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D-lighting pros and cons?

bugdozer 13 98 2
16 May 2012 12:23AM
I use a Nikon D-90 and normally have the D-lighting set to "on" all the time. However I recently saw some comments implying this can be a bad idea, but without explaining why. I'm aware of what it does (increasing shadow detail basically) but what are the drawbacks? Does it alter the data recorded in the NEF file or just when producing JPG images?

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User_Removed 6 4.6k 1 Scotland
16 May 2012 5:18AM
I prefer to shoot in Raw where in-camera settings do not affect the file.

But, if you are a Jpeg shooter, then there are some wide dynamic range situations where D-lighting can help. The basic rule is only to use it when needed and at the minimum level to meet those needs.

But, as I say, I prefer to shoot Raw and then assess and, if necessary, manipulate the image in Lightroom afterwards. It is so much easier to assess what might be required when dealing with a Raw file on a PC than to try to do it at the point of capture in the camera.
JohnParminter 9 1.3k 14 England
16 May 2012 8:50AM
I shoot in RAW using a Nikon D300 and often select the Active D-lighting option when the situation requires.

This is how I use the function.

I evaluate the exposure I need and use ND grad filters if I have to balance the wide dynamic range, mostly I can achieve a correctly exposed and balance DR using filters and with Active D-lighting off. However there are times when filters alone cannot balance the DR so I make sure I record all the highlights in my chosen exposure which may mean the shadows are slightly still too dark, this is when I use Active D-Lighting. Mine does not have an auto setting but Low, Med, High and Extra High I think from recollection or Extra High might only be available in Capture NX2, the Nikon RAW conversion software.

I reckon Low adds about 1/3 boost in shadow exposure, same for Med and High so High boosts the shadows by about 1 stop I reckon which can be very useful in the circumstances mentioned above.

However, the Active D-Lighting does give a slightly flatter appearance to the shadows so a bit of tweaking to contrast can help in RAW conversion but the benefit to the shadows boost is the advantage. I generally use Low or Med when I have to.

Once I export the RAW file into NX2 I can then actually change the Active D-Lighting setting that I set in camera to another setting or even switch it off but I can't select a setting if I had the Active D-Lighting set to off in the camera.

I don't have the Active D-Lighting set on as default, just use it as and when required.

When I convert the RAW file to TIFF all the in-camera settings are applied to the TIFF.

Hope it answers some queries about it.

Simple answer,

Yes leave it on all the time it won't damage or degrade your images. If you can adjust the level of your active D lighting i wouldn't recommend having it on full strength. medium/ somewhere in the middle is ok.
If you start messing around adjusting everything each time you want to take a photo. you will never get anywhere. there are some thing which are better left to the camera
darranl 7 318 England
16 May 2012 9:55AM
I also shoot in raw and find the Active D-Lighting to be the one confusing setting on my D5000 - also I saw the recent comments suggesting leaving it on is a bad idea so switched it off and I do think the images are starting to come out better without it - will need to try some proper comparisons at some point and really see if it is having any effect.
kodachrome 4 610
16 May 2012 11:02AM
I might be wrong, but I thought the active 'D' Lighting on the Nikon D90/5000 only worked when using JPegs. I mostly shoot Jpegs with my D5000 but I leave the 'D' Lighting on 'normal' and adjust shadow and high light in PP, It seems to work quite well.
JohnParminter 9 1.3k 14 England
16 May 2012 11:40AM
I believe the D90 Active D-Lighting can be selected from Auto, Extra high, High, Normal, Low, or Off.

I would only assume that this applied to the JPGs and RAWs as is the case on the D300.
oldblokeh 5 1.0k United Kingdom
16 May 2012 11:46AM
I have found that D-lighting ON severely impacts the sustained rapid-fire rate on the D90 -- and that's in RAW only.
I don't believe your Active D lighting applies to RAW files. A RAW file is completely un processed, plus a has a wider dynamic range that a jpeg. This is why i recommend you leave Active D lighting on. if you shoot in Raw leaving it on makes no difference.

If you are shooting in RAW you should already understand and have in-depth knowledge and skills regarding exposure.
If you don't have those skills you are wasting your time with RAW and should shoot in jpeg where Active D lighting can help.
JohnParminter 9 1.3k 14 England
16 May 2012 4:32PM

Quote:I don't believe your Active D lighting applies to RAW files.

I can only speak for a D300 and NX2 convertor combination but I think the same is for a D90/NX2 combination.

Shoot in RAW and set the Active D-lighting to the desired setting. You will see the results in the camera's LCD representation. Open the NEF file in NX2, choose to leave the setting as is, change or switch it off, you will see the representation of the NEF file on your computer monitor. Save the NEF file as a JPG or TIFF, the Active D-lighting setting (whether set in camera or in NX2) will be applied to the resulting file. Throughout this process from taking the NEF file with the Active D-Lighting setting to the final JPG or TIFF you can see what the effects of using this function will be.
darranl 7 318 England
16 May 2012 5:03PM

Quote:A RAW file is completely un processed

That doesn't seem to be true on the D5000 as long exposure and high iso noise reduction seem to be applied when shooting only raw so it is not impossible that some of the other settings could also affect the raw file.
oldblokeh 5 1.0k United Kingdom
16 May 2012 5:08PM
Here are two example shots on a D90, the first with D-Lighting off, the second with it set to high. Both shots were capture in RAW and converted to JPEG using NX2. All settings in NX2 were identical, and the differences were visible in the NX2 display prior to conversion. Exposure was manual and the same in each shot.



Pat_Stones 4 129 United Kingdom
16 May 2012 7:57PM
When it's turned on it changes the metering according to this

Another peculiarity of ADL is the role it plays in metering. On my D300 ADL changes the behavior of Matrix metering and as ADL is turned up the camera decreases the exposure value (EV); Normal ADL decreased the EV by 1/3 of a stop and High ADL decreased the EV by 2/3 of a stop. This explains the widely reported increase in noise using ADL, as it is attempting to preserve highlights by essentially underexposing and correspondingly raising shadows. Using Center weighted metering EVs were constant at all ADL settings (Low, Normal, and High), so obviously the camera is using ADL and Matrix metering together to determine what Nikon thinks is the ideal EV.
JohnParminter 9 1.3k 14 England
16 May 2012 10:51PM
I haven't experienced this the way I use my D300 Pat.

I always spot meter then manually set exposure myself with ADL off, I use filters and take the shot as described in my previous post. If I decide that I would like the shadows boosting then I switch Active D-Lighting on say to Low and take the shot again using the same exposure settings. The camera hasn't underexposed as it has no control over ISO, aperture or shutter speed as these were my settings but it does boost the shadows by about 1/3 stop. The metering may actually have changed as the above quote says but that is irrelevant to the exposure setting in manual mode that I have set, although can't say that I have noticed the exposure bar changing, mind I disregard that anyway as the spot meter could be metering any random thing once I have set my exposure (I use it for focusing after I have set exposure).

I suspect that the NEF file has a side file with the ADL information which is applied to the JPG LCD representation and NX2 representation on the monitor and applied directly to the file when I save it as a TIFF.
User_Removed 6 4.6k 1 Scotland
17 May 2012 3:52AM
Let's get one thing absolutely clear - in-camera settings such as Active-D Lighting DOES NOT have any affect whatsoever on the Raw files captured by the sensor.

However, if you use Nikon's proprietary software - such as NX2 - then the default processing applied to the Raw file by the software on download will reflect any in-camera adjustments. That will not happen in Lightroom or ACR.

But the distinction is important, and seems to confuse a lot of people. The Raw file is not affected by in-camera settings but the post-processing might be, depending upon the software you use.

But the point, in relation to the OP query, is that there is no purpose in using Active-D when shooting in Raw as the Raw file will contain all of the dynamic range that the sensor is capable of capturing and that detail can be brought out whatever processing regime you follow.

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