I have never been a fan of in camera processing, but I have to admit, if the Nikon Coolpix P500 is any indication, in camera processing has come a long way.
There are two kinds of in camera processing. What happens before the image is converted to jpeg, and what can happen after the image is already converted and written to your card.
A Back-illuminated CMOS sensor is capable of capturing multiple images very rapidly, and this feature is put to work in modes which stack exposures for extended dynamic range, lower noise, or various focus effects, before they are converted to jpeg. The Nikon has both portrait and landscape modes which employ this multiple exposure technology. I have experimented with Night Landscape and with Backlight/HDR mode. Both are able, in the right situations, to produce images which are well beyond any single exposure. This is a Night Landscape shot, hand held, using only the ambient light.
My experiments with Backlight/HDR have not been so successful. It tends, in full daylight, to produce an image which is very flat…maybe I have not hit the right combinations of camera settings or Lightroom techniques to get the most out of it yet. However, recent experiments with the the HDR function at sunset have produced much more satisfying results…capturing the scene much more naturally than a single exposure would ever manage, and requiring much less processing in Lightroom than expected for this type of scene.
This image, while still a bit dark in the foreground, comes as close to capturing the true ambiance of a sunset landscape as I have ever seen out-side of a painting (or some exceptional traditional HDR work).
The image did receive some Recovery (for the sky) in Lightroom, as well as fill light for the foreground, a slight blackpoint adjustment for intensity, Clarity and Vibrance, and a boost in Contrast to overcome the flatness of the HDR effect. If that sounds like a lot of processing, it really is not, for the accumulated effect.
The Nikon also has a number of processing effects that can be applied after the image is written to card, and I decided, just for fun to try some on the image above. The Quick Retouch applies, apparently, some D-Lighting (which brings up the shadows quite effectively), some sharpening and some contrast. The result, which required much less Lightroom processing is below. I actually like it better than the original.
And this image, which I apparently did not even process in the original batch, I really like.
This again uses the Backlight/HDR mode at capture time, Quick Retouch after capture, and then is processed for Clarity, Sharpness, and Intensity in Lightroom. Though still a little dark overall, this is really quite close to the naked-eye ambiance (lightening it more would loose the sky).
With these experiments behind me I decided to try in camera processing of one of my Backlighted/HDR shots that had not responded well to Lightroom.
Here is a standard Active-D Lighting version, the in camera HDR, and the same shot processed in camera using Quick Retouch…all simply resized with no other post processing.
And here, after processing in Lightroom for Clarity, Sharpness, and Intensity, is the final version, based on the last image above.
I am still experimenting and learning…but today’s Point & Shoot cameras certainly provide a wide range of options for the creative photographer…beyond the basic exposure modes!