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Fun fact, CV_8UC3 == 16. The function cv::imread takes an optional second parameter which is a flag from the enum cv::imreadmodes. In that enum, 16 == IMREAD_REDUCED_GRAYSCALE_2, which has the comment

If set, always convert image to the single channel grayscale image and the image size reduced 1/2.

Try removing that second parameter and see if it works better.