B&W Mode

Black and White mode compared to converted color shots.

The CP950 and CP900 have built in black and white modes. Several times I have heard that the B&W mode might be sharper than just taking a shot in color and converting it to black and white. Here I have taken two comparison shots at the same time. I tried to control for as much as I could; I used a tripod, I used aperture priority and forced an aperture to get rid of depth of field effects, and I used fixed focus to get rid of any autofocus effects.

Picture

Crop from the original color shot.

Picture

The same shot, converted to black and white by desaturating it. I chose this method because the camera produces an RGB file. (above) I also experimented with other techniques for converting to B&W to try to reproduce what the camera does.

Picture

The same area, with the camera in B&W mode.  (above)

Conclusions.

I prefer the look of the in-camera black and white mode. It has more contrast, but without loosing the highlights and shadows. I was not able to repoduce the look of the in-camera B&W mode with just the contrast and brightness controls; it must do some tone curve adjustment. I'm sure that it is possible to reproduce what the camera does, but the B&W shots right out of the camera look very good.

I don't find that any more fine detail is visible in the B&W mode though. Some have speculated that you  might expect more detail if the camera was no longer required to interpolate colors and was able to use ever pixel for the final image. This does not appear to be the case.

The question remains as to why Nikon chose to use an RGB greyscale file. Since each channel is identical, a lot of space could have been saved by using a different format. Maybe their internal compression reoutine can only work with one type of file.