In one of my first posts on this blog I covered the subject of setting white balance with the Sony RX100.
It may be useful to have a quick recap on the topic:
- For pictures setting a custom white balance is not useful if you shoot in RAW as the amount of correction in post processing is far superior*
- For video (that is shot in compressed format) setting the appropriate white balance for your shots is essential
There are exceptions to this rule, some people like to set custom white balance even in RAW when they shoot ambient light pictures. This is because changing the white balance shifts the histogram and therefore if you had taken a shot with an incorrect white balance you may retrieve wrong information from the histogram. Personally I do not do this most of the ambient light shots I judge by eye and not histogram or are silhouettes anyway but may be useful to know.
The other exception is when you shoot a raw video format with bit rates in excess of 100 Mbps, in that case the footage is captured in a bland format lacking any real depth and contrast and things are corrected in post processing. This does not apply to any consumer camera that works in AVCHD or Mp4 with bit rate lower than 50 Mbps in any case.
It follows that setting the appropriate white balance for our videos is something that is important otherwise our clips will look dull, green or have some sort of color cast we do not like.
As many of you RX100 I have experience with the infamous Custom White Balance 9900K error. In theory if you set your custom white balance with the camera in P mode over a neutral target this error should only occur if the color temperature is out of range (>9900K) unfortunately this is not the case and you get this error pretty much always with our beloved camera. At the beginning I thought that this was due to my cheap PADI slate, but after various attempts against my hand, sand, buddy’s tank, the sun I have to think there is some genuine issue here.
So I got myself whibal card, that on my test on land performs amazingly well with both the RX100 and the Nikon D7100.
The first thing we can realize is that the auto white balance setting is rather cool in outdoor scenes, whilst it tends to be warmer in indoor scenes with artificial light.
When you take a custom white balance the colors appear warmer and the bluish cast departs and the yellows come back.
This is particularly bad news if you shoot underwater without a filter and think of using auto white balance as those results will be pretty ugly.
The whibal card has a specific black mark that if illuminated tells you the white balance reading is incorrect because of reflections. I thought this was the key to the 9900 Error, unfortunately I was wrong.
It just fails 100% reliably really painful so I could not get rid of my trusted red filter for the Galapagos trip. I even tried setting the white balance with the filter and it would fail as well.
So I went back to auto white balance and red filter and I am pretty happy with the results, many people have asked me if I have manipulated the footage in post processing as the colors look very deep and some have even said unnatural. Even so shooting at 1/50 means a relatively low ISO and in the specific trip another f/stop of aperture was not really significant but I would have like to have the option of working without the filter, sadly this was not an option.
For what concerns white balance just a few things I want to say:
1. At depth there is no color anyway so what your eye can see it is not what it is, the proof is when you use lights or strobes things look much better than the naked eye. Using your visual as a reference can produce dull results.
2. You have to set an appropriate white balance for your scene, this means removing the cast. If a scene has no cast and the colors look saturated this is not a white balance issue on its own but may due to the camera settings. The RX100II is one of the less saturated camera on the market. The mark I instead is pretty saturated take this into account.
3. Footage that looks dull IS in fact ugly. The fact you set custom white balance with or without a filter does not mean that results is the perfect result, there is no such thing in fact and as colors disappear at depth white balance is not that effective anyway
Nick Hope sometime ago published some interesting tests on wetpixel
It turns out that there is more than meets the eye.
Just to clarify the only color correction in my Galapagos clip is:
1. In the scene of the dolphins I was pointing the camera upwards and did not have time to take the filter off so ended up with a red cast, I performed a white balance adjustment in iMovie on the opposite value of the tint I was getting until I liked it.
2. In the scene where there is a group of Galapagos sharks and the close up of the eagle ray I have reduced the blue gain as it was over saturated
In all other cases the only changes were increase of contrast or reduction of brightness. When the water was green like at the end in the Punta Vicente Roca scene I did not touch it to make it look artificially blue.
Again for those who ask I use a deeproof push on filter for the Inon UWL-H100 this filter is my preferred for the only reason that is actually the only one available on the market that fits on the lens. Personally I would much prefer a plastic filter like the ikelite/URPRO but this one is glass. It seems to correspond to a deep sunset 2700K with magenta tint of +5 on the RX100 but I have no tools to measure it I can only say it works.
So my recommendation for the RX100 is to get this solution as the Inon lens has the best optical quality and a hood that comes very handy to reduce flare. There are other lenses that fit the RX100 but have no hood. Obviously an not even considering the fisheye style lenses as distortion is ugly and placing a filter under the lens is a very bad idea.