The use of consumer digital cameras or webcams to characterize and monitor different features has become prevalent in various domains, especially in environmental applications. Despite some promising results, such digital camera systems generally suffer from signal aberrations due to the on-board image processing systems and thus offer limited quantitative data acquisition capability. The objective of this study was to test a series of radiometric corrections having the potential to reduce radiometric distortions linked to camera optics and environmental conditions, and to quantify the effects of these corrections on our ability to monitor crop variables. In 2007, we conducted a five-month experiment on sugarcane trial plots using original RGB and modified RGB (Red-Edge and NIR) cameras fitted onto a light aircraft. The camera settings were kept unchanged throughout the acquisition period and the images were recorded in JPEG and RAW formats. These images were corrected to eliminate the vignetting effect, and normalized between acquisition dates. Our results suggest that 1) the use of unprocessed image data did not improve the results of image analyses; 2) vignetting had a significant effect, especially for the modified camera, and 3) normalized vegetation indices calculated with vignetting-corrected images were sufficient to correct for scene illumination conditions. These results are discussed in the light of the experimental protocol and recommendations are made for the use of these versatile systems for quantitative remote sensing of terrestrial surfaces
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