What picture style you use is a big deal.
The canon line up of HDSLRs all offer custom picture styles that can be created/bought/downloaded. Today I tested three of the most popular custom picture styles for the cinematic look that everyone and their aunts are trying to achieve.
Technicolor Cinema Style (free)
Marvels Cinestyle (free)
Cinema Style ($19)
Don’t know how to install the picture style onto your camera? Check out this simple tutorial.
Your picture style determines the kind of image you’re getting. We’re not necessarily trying to get the best looking image… at this stage you want to get the image that offers the most freedom in post in terms of color correction and lighting.
I did some personal testing and the results can be seen below-
Sounds simple right? Just pick the right picture style right?
Afraid it’s more complex than that… First of all, beauty is subjective, always has and always will be. With that said, I encourage you to think long and hard about the kind of image you’re trying to achieve and pick or create the picture style that most appropriately matches that.
Second of all, these picture styles have distinct pros and cons. Only one of them costs money, why not utilize the pros of all the styles?
However as with every competition, one style comes out as the most useful. I was surprised myself.
As you can see from the ungraded images below- the $20 dollar cinema style looks great right off the camera.
Now for the grading, you’re supposed to change the curves on the Cinestyle (flat looking image). I tried downloading the free red giant lut buddy plugin but it didn’t work for me in final cut x or premiere. Only got crashes when I tried applying it. The pomfort lut plugin worked perfect for me before but the beta period ended, rendering the plugin 30 dollars. Might get it but usually I color grade by eye. Didn’t have much time to do serious color correction but I can safely say that it was a breeze grading the (paid) cinema style.
Check out the images below, I really tried to bring the color out on the other free picture styles but it was harder to do so because the image didn’t really have the color space. Perhaps it was a mistake setting the same iso/shutter speed/aperture for all the picture styles since some need less light than others.
Technicolor picture style
Pros: Free, best latitude of all styles no question about it. (easily seen in the ungraded footage of the cat)
Cons: Noisy, difficult to color grade.
Marvels Picture Style
Pros: Free, right in the middle of technicolor cinema style and cinema in terms of color and latitude.
Meh: Not as noisy as technicolor but still noticeable noise. Not as colorful as cinema but more than technicolor
Cons: See above, this is average across the board which is great and bad… depends on what you’re looking for.
Pros: Most crisp image and best color.
Cons: Latitude sucks, but hey you should have professional lighting right? Costs 20 dollars which is 20x more expensive than the other picture styles haha
Note about latitude, the canon cameras have an average of 12.1 stops (latitude is basically how much more the camera can see in the dark places) and this does not change with picture style… However the technicolor picture style artificially adds more latitude by increasing the noise in the under-exposed areas. It’s like a whole another layer of ISO. You can clearly see from the ungraded picture styles that noise is increased in CineStyle and Marvels but not much with the Cinema style even though they are all the exact same iso/shutter speed/aperture… bottom line is that if I can’t get more light I would resort to CineStyle to pull the details out of the shadows, but generally I’m sticking with Cinema for most shooting. (for now)
I would love to hear from other DSLR shooters what their experience has been or tips/tricks. Sound off in comments!
*I am not associated with any of the creators of the picture styles, nor have I been paid/bribed by anyone. This is simply my honest opinion/analysis.