Today I read that the Smithsonian recently put a huge archive of CC0 images of a variety of artwork and objects online: https://www.si.edu/openaccess
I believe this is a truly wonderful collection, in terms of visibility and accessibility of a vast collection of things, and a enormous preservational effort. From a photo enthusiast perspective it’s also fun: for a lot of images they let you download a high resolution TIFF file. The downside is that the image quality is, oddly enough, well… pretty shitty, somehow…
The TIFF files you can download contain the original metadata, which is interesting in itself. The quilt was shot with a Nikon D800, the painting with a PhaseOne IQ180 (a better choice for archival purposed imo). Also, the quilt was shot at f/14.0 which is a questionably aperture for the lens used.
But the image quality… well. Just take a look at this 200% crop of the center of the quilt.
And remember, this is from a TIFF file. There’s not supposed to be any JPEG artifacts (other than the ones introduced while pasting the snippet here). But where is the texture in the fabric?! It almost looks as if they exported the JPEG first and then converted that to a TIFF.
And even when viewed at 100% I think it is quite clear a lot of detail is lost.
How about the medium format image? Well, there’s plenty of pixels (5272x9582) that’s for sure. But a 100% crop of the painting also shows a rather poor quality imo.
Compare this to the available JPEG image on the website, where I added a little sharpening for comparison’s sake:
It really seems to me that the TIFF is not a properly processed raw file. The patterns/artifacts that are present in both images as simply too similar. Could it be they simply extracted an embedded image and exported that to RAW? Surely they must have been smarter than that? … The Exif information even tells me the images were processed in Photoshop, which has had RAW processing capabilities for a long time.
Any thoughts from the community?