Fine Art Repro, Gen II

April 29, 2012

OK, I think I have the Cruse System out of my, eh, system.  (Sorry…  but you know how I can’t resist an easy joke.)

In spite of the awesomeness of the Cruse, there are some serious disadvantages to it.  First, and most painfully obvious, is the cost and the size of the thing.  Not a whole lot of people have a few hundred thousand to throw at this task, or a 20′ square footprint for it.  There’s more.

The lighting on the Cruse does adjust from even, both-side lighting to soft, off-axis, single side, with a few stops in between.  Beyond that, there’s not much you can do.  There’s no option for, for example, turning the lights off and using your own light sources, as you may want to when replicating halogen light sources, as I like to with some painters’ work.  Finally, there’s the tri-linear CCD.

Back, oh ten years ago, the tri-linear CCD was the be-all, end-all capture system for configurations that could use it.  It’s a sensor that has three lines of pixels- red, blue and green, and they move into position, sample, and build an RGB file with no “de-mosaic” processing.  This keeps artifacts and aliasing to a minimum, and with systems like the Betterlight, allow very powerful color management (at the sensor level) resulting in some of the most accurate color possible.

Well, that was ten years ago.  Today, using a Bayer Array CMOS sensor in any top-end DSLR, you’re getting some amazing pre-RAW file processing…  processing that was just unknown ten years ago.  Aliasing, resolution issues, are all a thing of the past.  Color management tools are now allowing color management in the RAW file processing- essentially allowing camera linearization in Adobe Camera RAW (the X-Rite Passport, to be specific).  Stitching software is remarkable, and bundled in Photoshop (File>Automate>Photomerge).

Suffice to say, I was very curious to see what you could do with one of these systems, with good color management techniques.   I also wanted to work with some lighting that was more tailored to the work…

My conclusions?  Check out this sample.

This is a piece of a file from a 30″ x 40″ painting, the final file sized to 100% of the original, complete with dust.  Take note of a few things.  Check out the lack of a cast in the shadows.  Check out the subtle magenta hues in the skin tones.  The file is bulletproof, and this is virtually straight out of Adobe Camera RAW.

By shooting with a camera like the Nikon D3x, using Passport to build a RAW profile for Adobe Camera RAW, and stitching as many images as needed for the reproduction size, I have files that surpass anything that the Cruse can do.  I’m talking resolution, and color accuracy as well.  One of the very first times I worked with this method, I shot a painting, did my basic processing, and made a quick proof print.  I showed it to the artist.  That first print was accepted as final color.

Even with the best color management on the Cruse system, I’ve always had to tweak the color.  It’s fairly predictable, actually, and I have seen a few examples of aliasing and artifacts – especially noise, when you start tearing into the shadows.  As with any capture from a tri-linear CCD, your resizing up is pretty limited, as well.  Compare this to the remarkable amount you can up-size a Bayer Array capture.  For the cost of the Cruse, it’s really quite surprising…  but again, it’s 10-year old technology in a rapidly evolving world.

I mean…  who ever thought we’d see a CMOS sensor with ISO 6400?  It’s a crazy new world…

(EDIT: Please see the response from Cruse, here.  Seems they’ve been busy in the last ten years… )

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