Nikon 6MP and 10MP DSLRs




Diffraction Science Update

Beyond the eBook
Supporting ideas to expand your D40 / D40x photographic experience

New for 2008: Nikon D60

Nikon's new D60 replaces the D40x with a pocket full of new change. It costs the same as the D40x did at first, but it has included some nice new features and some incremental upgrades.

  • The image is the same
  • The focus system is the same
  • The internal computer is a faster unit
  • The anti-dust system is new
  • A convenient "shoot with D-Lighting applied" button is new
  • A graphic WB color map is new for WB fine-tuning
  • A tricky new Stop Motion Movie function is included
  • RAW files can be re-processed in-camera, generating an additional RAW file
  • New JPEG retouch options for Cross Star and Color Intensifier are available
  • The Data Screen is improved, and rotates when you shoot verticals
  • Manual focus works in Nikon "rangefinder" mode, and
  • The monitor turns off when it senses your face coming near.

Everything else is the same. So the D40x eBook information applies directly to the D60. As do the included 650+ iNovaFX Photoshop Actions.

Of all of these, the Anti-Dust system that vibrates the image chip's anti-alias over layer every time you power up the camera is the biggest item. It keeps you freer of dust more of the time. The WB color map lets you not only warm/cool the image, but tint it in the green/magenta range.

Shooting with the selected D-Lighting (a dedicated button) can perk up your darkest shadows and add a tiny bit of extra highlight control.

Being able to tweak the RAW image in the camera is a great feature, and you have control over final output format, optimize image characteristics like vivid or monochrome, exposure compensation, sharpening, white balance and a form of the graphic WB map.

It is basic, but useful. Except for one very real item. You're not looking at a super-tweaked monitor, so adjustments may be misleading. It was a difficult feature to write into the software, and for some users, it's much better than nothing, but be ready for surprises when you look at these images on your computer.

I like the idea of giving you cross star filter options in the camera. Nikon has given you a lot to play with.

The Stop Motion Movie effect is interesting, but you only get up to 100 frames at 3-15 frames per second, so your movie could be 33 seconds long or 6.6 seconds short. Try 10 fps at first for a nice, satisfying 10 second movie.

Or do what the eBook tells you and get a copy of QuickTime Pro for $30 and gain tremendous control over your movie creations. Even make time lapse sequences at full theatrical movie resolution or for Hi Def home movie edits.


The D40/D40x eBook is 1013 pages thick. Every page has hundreds of words. That's hundreds of thousands of opportunities for things to become opporthreenities. The proofing printout on laser paper is over four inches thick! Certainly there's going to be a typo in there somewhere?

If you are the first to find one, let us know and we will bestow accolades on you here.

But enough of the excuses, let's get down to brass taxes. Here are the known errors, mistakes and errata:

1. A big one. Diffraction science descriptions include errors. The fix is here.


Here's how big it is (laser printer 8.5 x 11 paper output). About 4.25 inches thick. A new third-generation layout has made every page, every idea easier to read, review, identify and absorb.

Purchasers can always print out any range of pages in our eBooks for reference. They will lose the interactive examples, movies, hyperlinks and animations, but sometimes paper goes places laptops shouldn't.

Light Camera Actions.

Here are twin cameras that won't weigh you down. A definite first choice for travel. Operation can be extremely fast due to the ergonomic menu and data systems, and once you know all their secrets, these cameras excel in all sorts of picture situations. Once the pictures are in the computer, a whole new part of the image power process begins. Let the fun begin:

D40(x) Actions:
Since the D40 / D40x eBook contains cameras in both 6MP and 10MP frame densities, we have swept through the entire catalog of iNovaFX Photoshop Actions and adjusted them to serve both file sizes. As a consequence, many now serve ANY image size. Many improvements were made.

The D40x is ONLY served fully by Photoshop CS3, and while that may upset some prior Photoshop owners who haven't upgraded to CS3, it's just a Factoid Of Life. Prior versions of Photoshop don't read the D40x RAW files. Photoshop CS2 reads D40 RAW files but not those from the D40x.

Recommendation: Get Photoshop CS3. It is a killer upgrade on this towering image editing program and it beats the Pooh out of anything else in the Hundred Acre Wood.

If you don't get this upgrade--well, let's just say that it reminds me of the time my mom said "If you fall down and break your leg, don't come running to me."

New iNovaFX Actions in the D40(x) collection have raised the bar. Although the eBook disk is not locked at this moment, the number of iNovaFX Actions has already reached 661 with a number of new ones that take advantage of features only found in PS CS3.

Made possible by the PS CS3's revised Photomerge feature, the original is over 6800 pixels wide.

For instance: PS CS3 has a newly renovated and restructured Photomerge feature that does a superior job of combining many photos into one continuous, seamless result. Certain iNovaFX Actions now use this feature to produce large images.

For instance: PS CS2/3 have a Photo Correction mode that now makes fast, any-size barrel distortion corrections possible for zoom lenses at certain focal lengths. New iNovaFX Actions now straighten out the 18-55mm and 55-200mm VR Nikkors with exacting results.

For instance: New noise-reduction and image retouching mechanisms exist in PS CS3 that have led to the creation of stunning new Actions that reduce grain, color noise and skin flaws in portraits. You can now take 10 or 20 years off a portrait with the click of a mouse.

Is it really IR or is it iNovaFX? Rollover for original.

For instance: We've seen some ham-handed attempts to create faux InfraRed filtration effects with PS Actions by others. It's a shame to see Adobe dispensing free Actions that I feel are literally "bad Actors" on their web site, but we have created a new series of Faux IR Actions that turn normal color scenics, like the one above, into the IR-looks you want. How do we know? Because we shoot IR and those are the looks we get from the real thing. Within reason. The image above is right from the new iIRbw Actions group.

For instance: The entire iNovaFX Photoshop Actions section (Chapter 10) has been expanded, revised, cleaned, oiled and adjusted. Now Actions are clustered by function (lifted verbatim from the Actions chapter preamble):

Geometry corrections, such as the iBC barrel distortion correction series and the tutorial for achieving view-camera swings and tilts.

Image repairs, such as the iCC series that fixes the color balance when the camera was set incorrectly, or the iDustAway series that lets you flatten dust spots using a special reference image you shoot so it is unique to your camera.

Image adjustments, such as the iCF Cooler/Warmer tweaks that add just a touch of color control or the iSO and iSOExtreme series that push-process your images into higher ISO ranges.

Art interpretations, such as the iLiner series that converts a photograph into a stylized graphic illustration or the iComplexArtFX series that turns your photo into an oil painting or watercolor.

Darkroom interpretations, such as the iHalcyon series that achieve complex photographic stylizations of images and the iDimRoomArt series that suspends your image between photo and graphic.

Filtration effects, such as the iHalo series that add photographic filter effects previously reserved for glass filters applied over the camera lens before the shot was taken and the iGrad series that adds controllable grad filters after the fact.

Photoshop Filter presets, a series of Actions that produce photographically interesting results using Photoshop's Plug-In Filters. Some are simply starting places for you to play with, while others contain multi-step results in imaginative ways.

Artifact reduction, including color digital noise reduction and even a useful degree of JPEG artifact suppression.

B&W interpretations, including the iBWColorFilters and iBWFilmEffects Actions that move color images into B&W film-like interpretations of your color images.

Print preparations, including the iBWPrintTint series that mimic a range of B&W printing options that wet darkrooms enjoyed in the past.

Printing utilities, such as the iFourPrint and iMulti-16 series that let you collect four or 16 different images onto a single letter page print-out.

Optical interpretations, like the iOptiFocusBlur, iBaby and iToy Actions that let you achieve controllable specialty lens effects that are usually reserved to the moment of shooting.

Border effects, including the iFilmBorder and iStampBorder series that wraps your image with a film or perforated stamp frame.

Dynamic range enhancement from the iDynamicRanger series that let you shoot a bracket of shots on a single subject and convert your image into a single photo with greater range than film tonal dynamics.

Movie treatments including the iJazzAge and iSinCity Actions that turn your shots into visual effect treatments from films like The Aviator, Sin City, Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

Utilities for conveniently cropping, composing and preparing images for other processes.

Looks. A catch all of extras that change the look of your images.

With over 600 individual Actions, your chances are great that some will become constant favorites while others won't fit your shooting style at all. Many stop in mid-stream to allow you to apply new choices to the string of manipulations and most of the complex ones save a multi-layer Snapshot in the History palette so you can change the result by tweaking layers after the Action is finished.

Some are ridiculously simple, while others are mind-numbingly complex. Have fun.

Bad Science! Down, boy!

Diffraction descriptions in the eBook missed some points. Moving to the real world...
As physicist Richard Feynman said, “if you don’t like the laws of nature, go somewhere else.”

In the discussion of photons in DSLR-series eBooks, diffraction was mischaracterized. Here’s the update and more correct model.

Cross off the notion of diffraction increasing as focal length shortens. It’s not that kind of linear function. It can look that way because of digital photography’s practice of packing more and more sensors into smaller and smaller spaces served by shorter lenses, but the reality is that at any given f-stop, the diffraction effect is independent of focal length.

In other words, the degree to which sharpness is compromised by the “diffraction limit” stays steady, regardless of the focal length of the optical system. This limit on sharpness changes with the wavelength of each photon, but can be expressed as a general diameter for a digital image. As the f-number changes, the diffraction limit changes in a direct relationship.

Long tele and wide angle lenses both focus detail as sharply as they can, but below the diffraction limit of each f-number, no more finely resolved detail can be had. This disrupts our ability to simply dial in smaller and smaller iris settings to increase depth of field. As the diffraction limit is crossed, depth of field still rises, but overall image sharpness begins to blur.

Smaller format cameras see diffraction limits before cameras with larger pixels do because their individual photosites are smaller. The allowable size for diffracted detail is in the range of 1.4 pixels before it becomes visibly disruptive to the ultimate sharpness of fine texture and small detail. In many lenses, other factors of design may lower sharpness before diffraction phenomena take over.

For 10MP Nikon DSLR image chips, that makes the phenomenon fit inside a single photosite until about f/10 is reached. Gradually, as the iris is closed to smaller than that, diffraction blurs the maximum resolvable detail into adjacent photosites, continuously lowering the sharpest details. By f/13 you might notice it if you looked extremely critically at single-pixel detail, comparing it from two identical shots, but in practical terms, the image will hold quite good sharpness up to about f/16.

Because the 6MP Nikon DSLR photosites are larger, they won’t see diffraction until a lens reaches about f/13 and will hold good detail to around f/22.

Smaller photosites will experience sharpness loss due to diffraction at wider iris settings. The image sensors in a pocket camera (such as a Nikon Coolpix 5000’s 1/1.8” image chip) may contain 10 million pixels, but the dimension of each pixel is small enough to cause noticeable diffraction compromises starting at about f/4.

Obviously, this makes simply packing more pixels into a given area something of a trade-off. The image surface of a 10MP Nikon DSLR is within a trice of 23.8 x 15.7 mm, making a surface area of 373.6 square millimeters. Each photosite is 6.1µm (micrometers) square, and the fuzz ball of detail that optimum focus, moderated by diffraction, can park on its face is caused by a lens at just a hair over f/10. If that same area were to attempt to hold 40 million pixels, each 3 µm square photosite would only be pixel-perfect up to f/5-ish. If it held 16MP, one could stop lenses down to f/8 before running afoul of diffraction limits to sharpness.

Diffraction imposes a technical upper limit to DSLRs in their current sizes. Even with a full frame imaging chip (24 x 36mm) holding 20MP, diffraction limits stay the same as for today’s 10MP models (D200, D80, D40x) while the dimensions of the image by pixel count rise to about 5472 x 3648. Packing density for the image doubles because the area doubles, but the dimensions rise just 41%. Still, that’s the difference between a 19-inch print and a 27-inch print.

Full frame note: While a full-frame format image chip may seem desirable from a More-Is-Better standpoint, the competing factors in designing, debugging, manufacturing, marketing and recovering from the investment involved are considerable.

Manufacturers are faced with a balancing act. Doubling the surface area of an image chip is technically possible but about 300% as expensive as packing more pixels onto the current surface area. Questions they ask include “What mass market is willing to pay for cameras that may cost 250% of today’s top models for a 41% bigger image?”

Especially in light of the idea that a denser image (16MP, for instance) could be developed for the current format and delivered for perhaps a 50% price premium or less. That denser chip would lose one stop of perfect-pixel sharpness as the diffraction limit was reached, but its cost-to-benefit formula would cause a lot of credit cards to spring forth.

Reference here.

Stay tuned. More about the DSLR: Nikon D40 / D40x eBook is coming soon.