Leica Leica M9 CCD - Skin Tones

Duane Pandorf

Top Veteran
Apr 25, 2011
103
Western NC
I recently mentioned that I've created a "Dual Illuminate" custom camera profile for my Leica M-E using the x-Rite ColorChecker Passport and was asked if I'd explain a little bit more about it. Well here goes:

Thought I’d share my experience with taming my Leica M-E’s out of camera DNG color (colour) palette using the latest version Lightroom.

Before purchasing my Leica M-E, I had read through Thorsten Overgaard’s running commentary on his experiences shooting with his Leica M9. ("Leica M9 Digital Rangefinder Camera” : http://www.overgaard.dk/leica-M9-digital-rangefinder-camera.html)

Thorsten provides a lot of valuable information that he’s learned over the course of his use of the camera and I have been using many of his suggestions and the way he shoots, especially the way he has configured his camera.

I have had my M-E for about a year and a half. My camera has over 20,000 shutter actuations yet I’m still learning new “tricks” so to speak in getting what I want out of the camera. One of the first things I did since reading Thorsten’s M9 info was to buy a WhiBal card (http://michaeltapesdesign.com/whibal.html). I have two versions the 3.5”x6” version and their credit card size as I keep that one in my wallet.

Its just recently after rereading some of Thorsten’s commentary that I’ve decided to use my WhiBal card religiously and am now running my M-E in Manual White Balance.

Early on after shooting with my M-E I searched for any info on “improving” the colors I was getting. In Thorsten’s info I tried using some of his Lightroom HSL color tweaks but found that to be hit and miss for my preference. By the way, I’ve been profiling my displays with a Spyder Express (http://spyder.datacolor.com/display-calibration/). So I’m familiar with ensuring my display is properly calibrated to show the right colors.

In my research I found a Leica M9 custom camera profile made by Chromasoft (https://sites.google.com/site/chromasoft/referenceimages) and used it for quite a while. I really did not care for the default Adobe Lightroom profile nor the embedded profile out of the camera. But Chromasoft’s profile still didn’t lend itself to the color pallete I was looking for.

Through time I began a new search and found the inexpensive HueLight Leica M9 profiles (http://www.colorfidelity.com/). I was very excited about the results I was getting from these three different profiles and made the standard profile my default. However, skin tones were still not up to par of what I thought the camera should be able to produce.

Recently Dave Powell (http://shoottokyo.com/) posted an older review of his of the x-Rite Color Checker on his Facebook page and how he has used it to improve his images. I have read about the x-Rite product in the past and kind of understood how it worked but was reluctant to spend over $80 for a couple panels of different colors. How is this really going to help me?

I then remember Thorsten had done some work with the x-Rite too and reread his stuff and after reading it again realized I was finally getting what this produce could do for me.

I changed some of my search parameters in my Google search window and finally hit on another blog that went into detail and how to get better skin tones out of the camera using the x-Rite Color Checker and the WhiBal card. A Dutchman by the name of Hans van Eijsden: (http://www.hansvaneijsden.com/colorchecker-perfect-skin-colors/)

His in-depth discussion helped solidify my decision to buy the x-Rite. I purchased mine through Amazon, not that it matters and immediately applied Hans’s procedure in creating my own custom “Dual Illuminant” profile.

I had to take a few test shots to get the best working DNG files to create the profile but once I did I could immediately see an major improvement.

This first example below is using my new custom "Dual Illuminate" Camera Profile. I shot a manual balance using the WhiBal card before taking this photograph to ensure I had the right white balance for the existing light. We were sitting on the porch of our favorite restaurant in the town and the sky had a heavy overcast as it was actually thundering and some lightning going on at the time.

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x-Rite Custom Profile and in-camera Manual White Balance | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH f/2.0 1/60 ISO160

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Lightroom Embedded Camera Profile (Leica's Profile) | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH f/2.0 1/60 ISO160

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Adobe's Leica M9 Profile | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH f/2.0 1/60 ISO160

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HueLight Standard M9 Profile | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH f/2.0 1/60 ISO160

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Chromasoft Leica M9 Profile | Leica M-E, Leica Summilux-M 35mm pre-ASPH f/2.0 1/60 ISO160
 

NJH

Regular
Aug 12, 2012
28
South West England
Thanks Duane, I decided sometime ago that if I was going to continue with digital I would have to use a colour checker. Your images really highlight just how important it is to get the colour right.
 

brusby

Regular
Mar 1, 2014
18
Thanks for the informative comparison Duane.

I use the x-Rite too, and the i1 Profiler. While they've helped a lot, I find I often have to do some manual fine tuning.

I can see the allure of your first photo (with the x-Rite custom profile), particularly since all the others seem to be over saturated to varying degrees in the warm colors like reds, yellows, oranges. But, it may have gone a little too far in removing red because there seems to be just a touch of a green tint. It's very slight. In fact, I didn't notice it till I looked at your last image (Chromasoft) and then went immediately back to the first. Maybe the first image is technically correct, but for my tastes I'd probably try to split the difference between images 1 and 5 to put just a touch of rosiness back in her complexion.

This is not a criticism, just another view and different analysis.
 

Duane Pandorf

Top Veteran
Apr 25, 2011
103
Western NC
Thanks for the informative comparison Duane.

I use the x-Rite too, and the i1 Profiler. While they've helped a lot, I find I often have to do some manual fine tuning.

I can see the allure of your first photo (with the x-Rite custom profile), particularly since all the others seem to be over saturated to varying degrees in the warm colors like reds, yellows, oranges. But, it may have gone a little too far in removing red because there seems to be just a touch of a green tint. It's very slight. In fact, I didn't notice it till I looked at your last image (Chromasoft) and then went immediately back to the first. Maybe the first image is technically correct, but for my tastes I'd probably try to split the difference between images 1 and 5 to put just a touch of rosiness back in her complexion.

This is not a criticism, just another view and different analysis.
After stepping away from the computer for a bit and then coming back to look at the images I too agree that I see a little too much of a green tint and maybe just a little warm.

In the photograph below I've used the Lightroom White Balance Selector and clicked on the "grayish" portion of her collar. The new white balance setting is now Temp 5350 and +13 on Tint compared to Temp 6450 and Tint +43.

I think I prefer this updated version to the first one I posted. That being said, without the x-Rite ColorChecker Passport and my custom profile I wouldn't have gotten this close to begin with in the past.

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christilou

Legend
Jul 13, 2010
164
Sunny Frimley
Interesting. I have the M so the colours are different but just as vexing. I read Thorston too and still need to try the wibalance card myself. For the moment I decided to set the white balance K manually using the same values that the RX1 chose on auto as I like this for daylight. Skin tones are still way too pink though.
 

brusby

Regular
Mar 1, 2014
18
The changes seem better and more natural. Nice.

I still get just the slightest bit of a green feel (or maybe it's now blue-green or cyan)l, which, for human skin, I think is maybe not the best tint to have.

I'm no expert on color, but since red and green are complimentary colors it's theoretically possible to fix an image that's too green either by subtracting green or adding red.

I have to admit that whenever I look at image 5 I see a lot about it that's appealing. Even though it's a bit over saturated, to me the extra red gives her a very fresh, healthy look. If it were my image I'd probably try cutting back a little on either the overall saturation or just the red saturation of #5 to compare to your latest version.

But I'm just being hyper picky here, so feel free to ignore completely.

Nice work though.
 

brusby

Regular
Mar 1, 2014
18
BTW, 'love what you're doing with your pre-ASPH 35mm Summilux. Just the perfect combination of sharp and smooth for this portrait, and nice bokeh!
 

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