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Processing X-Trans with Photo Ninja


Alan7140
  • https://www.fotozones.com/live/uploads/

FrankF asked if I could write up something about processing X-Trans raw files, noting that his usual adjustments for NEF files didn’t work with RAF files.

Straight off, and despite much dismissive hand waving by those who would use Adobe Lightroom or Camera Raw to process their files regardless of any opinion as to the quality of the end result for X-Trans files, I can only say that I’ve tried ACR at every update until CC Rent-a Shop came into play and the results, while tinkered with substantially about the edge, were still nowhere near as good as processors using Dave Coffin’s dcraw algorithms for the X-Trans demosaic.

So the following will not be for Adobe users as I don’t use LR/ACR for X-Trans. Ever.

As Frank uses Photo Ninja (as do I), I’ll run through what I do to convert X-Trans raw files using that program. This is just how I use it, I'm not suggesting it is gospel. :D I really like the results I get this way, so I guess that's what really matters to me - your needs might vary.

For whatever reason the folk at PN did individualise their program by assigning names to sliders that are not common in their effect to more conventionally consistent names in other makers’ programs. This isn’t really a problem once familiarity is gained, but can be confusing at first.

Here’s the image I used as Photo Ninja presented it straight from the demosaic. I used this image because it has fine detail, the highlights are overexposed, and there are many fine and small colour gradations - plus the folder was open on the computer anyway :) . As a photograph it isn’t anything much, but as a taxing of the demosaic it perhaps is.

OIYRH3u.jpg

The following is how I have found it best to use the controls - this might differ from any “official” instructions, but hey, whatever works....

Note that when you're working in any panel, clicking on the ◄► icon under the sliders (highlighted in screen grab below)will show the unprocessed image, releasing will show the processed image concerning that panel. After exiting one of the control panels for the overall menu, clicking on them will show the unprocessed image, releasing will show the processed image including all panels adjusted so far. So at any time you can flick back and forward between processed states without having to hunt all over the screen for a preview box to tick or un-tick.

Here’s a screen grab at 100% of the image as opened, along with clipped highlight indicators:

TNcAUPa.jpg

So here’s the PN controls panel as it has opened an un-worked image with default settings:

lainPBI.jpg

Starting at the top, and the first hurdle which had me stumped for a long time when I first used this current version of PN (and which took an email to PN support to get an answer) is the “Color correction” menu.

Misleading, because in it is the slider that controls what everyone else calls "Highlight recovery" but has been called “Color recovery” in PN. Further confusion is caused by the fact that its default setting is strength 100. At this setting PN will fill any blown highlights with an aggregate colour from the surrounding un-blown area, which can sometimes look awful, even taking on a solarised appearance.

The Color correction panel:

haFHwAo.jpg

I have changed that default number to 50 in my prefs, which I find a better overall beginning setting for my files, but that might vary according to your shooting style. Whatever, it is something to be aware of.

On the whole PN and Fuji together seem to do a good job on colour balance, but if there’s a lot of green in shot you’ll probably have to do a custom WB and knock excessive magenta compensation out of the default. I didn't mess with WB in this case, though, although it could be improved a bit I suppose. For comparison purposes I also thought a constant WB might be more useful. I would have warmed it up, although in this case the cool tone serves to locate the scene on the cusp of winter during a cold (6°C) day rather effectively.

Next in the main panel is the primary adjustment menu - “Exposure and detail”.

These are the settings it opened the sample image with:

rq0f27q.jpg

As can be seen, there’s a bit going on at the right of the histogram that’ll need hauling into line (clipped highlights indicated with the red line).

The first thing to keep in mind is to try to work from the top down in this panel. The Illumination and Exposure offset sliders directly affect one another and should be worked in concert, keeping an eye on the highlight clipping indication in the preview image as well as watching the histogram. In this case in order to haul the highlights back it will be necessary to further reduce Exposure, then return the image to its original overall brightness with the Illumination slider. (If the image is underexposed to the left of the histogram, then the opposite movements of these two sliders will be required, and contrast increases in that case).

zudh180.jpg

As can be seen, the image no longer spills to the right, and the histogram light tones are a bit more centralised and the clipped highlights are recovered. The visual effect will be to have slightly flattened the contrast of the image, and as there is no need to adjust shadows as they are are not falling off the left of the histogram the Shadows and the Black sliders can be skipped and the Contrast slider gently bumped up until the shadows just start to block, and then backed off a bit. In this case enough punch was added back by shifting Contrast to +7.

The final slider in this panel is the Detail slider and this must be approached with the utmost caution with X-Trans files. With Bayer files it is relatively gentle but with Fuji X it is vicious and some real artefacting can occur. I’ve found that maximum setting of +4 is all I can use before things get choppy.

This slider can be used to the negative side with great effect to reduce grain noise, however, and sometimes works better than third party NR programs, or Noise Ninja itself, for that matter.

Next comes the Color enhancement window. This has three presets in a drop-down menu - “Plain" (obvious as to effect), “Portrait” (which darkens/dulls green and blue but lightens/accentuates yellows and reds) and “Scenic” which saturates all colours.

My default opening settings for this image:

F52a37y.jpg

I have set my prefs to open this in Portrait mode as above, and will then use the fine-tuning sliders to alter the depth and saturation of individual colours as indicated in the colour boxes above the sliders. Select a box (green in this case) and adjust the Hue and Hue affinity sliders to bring back the brightness to the greens that the “Portrait” preset had killed a bit much.

IWw2Aqh.jpg

The rest of the control panels are more targeted and to be honest I rarely use them as I have other programs that do the job better. Occasionally I'll use the vignette for effect or the Chromatic aberration if processing a file taken with an older Nikon AI-s wide-angle, but the Fuji lenses really don't have any aberrations to worry about - at least none of mine do. Even the little Samyang 8mm fisheye is amazingly free or fringing.

For sharpening I use Helicon Filter as a Photoshop plug-in, specifically the “sharpen fine details” slider in the sharpening panel, which usually gets best results between +15 & +25, and it has the least halo effect of any sharpener I have used.

So here’s the finished processed shot

9hhIoV8.jpg

And here’s a set of 100% sections of the before, the after, and one final one with +15 Helicon Filter sharpening as well.

Default:

gHTwMIs.jpg

Processed:

IsyIqoP.jpg

Processed and Helicon Sharpen Fine Details +15:

uY3NBQB.jpg

The final version here might be a bit over-sharpened for screen, but is about what I find prints best on my Epson 7800 using Innova Smooth Cotton High White and Ilford Gallerie Gold Fibre Silk.

Once familiar with the program, running through these adjustments takes only a few seconds, and from that point of view it is much quicker than other dcraw-based processors I've tried (Windows - I don't use Mac). But getting quick at it does take practice, as with anything.

Postscript:

As always we'll be compromised by the ancient web colour space of sRGB and jpeg compression. Of course this image was processed in 16-bit Pro Photo colour space, and saved so tagged as an uncompressed TIFF, which means it probably looks a whole lot different to what you may be seeing on your monitor. One day the Web will catch up, maybe after it is done trying to be a phone app and gets back to being something worthwhile.

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Thanks for this fantastic contribution, Alan! I have added this to our articles database. :) 

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Question: Why do you use the builtin Profile for your sensor and not profile your camera with a target?

BIG Thank You!!!!

Dallas? Article?

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Question: Why do you use the builtin Profile for your sensor and not profile your camera with a target?

BIG Thank You!!!!

Dallas? Article?

 

Built-in, Frank. They got it right for the X-T1.

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I tried builtin vs. measured with the X100T. Much better colors to start with.

There are some things in your report I triald and errored already. Some things are new and very helpful to me. Some things I learned from AndreaB's general PN tutorial and some things I can add to what you said.

Esp helpful is the "careful with the details slider" and your Helicon Sharpener tipp. I will sure try Helicon vs. NIK output sharpener wich I found already more useful than Unsharp Mask, wich is obviously more usefull for Bayer patterns.

i never used the color enhancements so I will dig into this too.

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Frank, both the Nik raw pre-sharpener and the output sharpener are very good, I just find the Helicon product to be quicker and simpler to use, although I confess that from time to time I still use the Nik product for its finer control. They both beat Smart Sharpen and Unsharp Mask in its various forms in many programs - Helicon filter have a version of USM in their "advanced" sharpening panel so take note that it is different to the "Sharpen Fine Details" slider.

 

I'm not sure as to whether HF supports demosaic of the X100T, but it also has the option of using dcraw as a demosaic tool for X-Trans - it works more purely with dcraw giving you access to the command-line switches that Dave Coffin originally wrote into the program. Photo Ninja and most other dcraw-based programs don't give this base level access and supply a basic default demosaic with minimal switching inputs, but you don't have hands-on access like you do with Helicon Filter.

 

Normally this isn't important, but on very rare occasions (as with many mixed light sources or unusual lighting) you might want to start with just a most basic demosaic and HF gives you that option. A side effect of this is that dcraw is self contained in the program folder without modification so if dcraw gets updated and you want immediate access to that update it is as simple as replacing the dcraw folder in the HF program folder with the new version. This does not work with Photo Ninja - you have to wait for their version update.

 

Of course Nik is free, whereas HF costs, so there might not be enough to buy HF for some, But I use it as a matter of course now so it has well paid for itself by now.

 

As always, keep looking for other people's experiences with PN - I don't profess to be an expert, but I do have a lot of experience with processing the X-Trans with many processors since early 2012 brought about by my initial intense dislike for the first Adobe demosaic offering, which nearly sank the X-Trans as people simply refused to blame Adobe and directly laid the blame on Fuji.

 

Time has proved them wrong, fortunately, because I can't imagine how miserable I would be with my photography by now had I given up, sold the Fuji and continued to struggle with a Nikon line-up that I was getting increasingly disenchanted with, despite that I had been one of those who had lusted after Nikon when at university but simply couldn't afford it, and had jumped at the chance of buying a complete new F4 outfit a couple of decades later when my financial status had improved and it was a deductible business expense. The F4 kept me loyal - serving me faithfully and fuss-free for over a decade without missing a beat, but my experience with their digital products became increasingly jaded as my equipment spent more and more time in the repair facilities, and usually involved an argument over liability for the breakdown with Nikon Australia.

 

As I've mentioned before, the Fuji X system has rekindled my love for taking photographs (both as a profession and a hobby) in a way that my Hasselblads and that bullet-proof F4 had supplied. Photo Ninja has been a welcome part of that rekindling, getting the most out of my X-Trans raw files.

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Photo Ninja does a great job with the X-Trans files for sure! And it was very enjoyable to see how someone else makes use of PN. I also have the Color Recovery slider set to 50. Then the Highlights slider works better it seems.

 

The X-Trans files do certainly record massive amounts of detail in a lovely way. I like the version just before the final one for viewing here on a monitor (understanding that by necessity we must 'oversharpen' a little bit for printing as in the final version).

 

A reminder that commonly used settings can be saved as a Preset which helps cut down on editing time.

 

And the color patches on the Color Enhancement panel are well worth exploring in depth.

Currently I've been working on how & when to reset the reference hue sliders. Problem is that PN does not supply a colour sampler to measure a colour area in a foto that you might want to change. So setting resetting the reference hue sliders is a bit hit and miss.

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Andrea:

Could you copy your PN preset recommodation here? I printed it for reference because I consider it very helpful.

What is your experience with builtin vs. measured color reference?

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I have about 30 Presets based on different cameras and which light was illuminating the subject (UV, IR, Sunlight, etc.) and other factors. These Presets usually incorporate Light Source profiles I've built in Photo Ninja.

 

I'm not liking Photo Ninja's current interpretation of the daylight D810 colours. But for the older cams like D3S, D700, D300, D200 the built-in daylight colour profiles seem right on target. And I've found that PN is good enough at interpreting the in-camera white balance settings for ordinary work ("ordinary" for me = non-UV photos).

 

The built-in daylight profiles probably improve with subsequent releases because the PN team receives a lot of samples from users and continually upgrades the built-in profiles?? (Either I read that somewhere or was told that by one of the PN team members.)

 

But really, it is so simple to record a Color Checker Passport at the beginning of each shoot to use to make a profile in PN, that I hardly use of the built-ins anymore. Just open the photo of the CC Passport, spread the grid and push the button.

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I have saved a number of situational presets (in forest blue sky, In forest overcast etc) but rarely use them. Somehow things seem quicker if I process one photo, hit done and copy and paste those settings to the following similar photos, then start again when the next set of similar photos different to the first batch presents. Given the compactness and setting out of the panels, I mostly just use the first three, with most time spent on the middle "Exposure and detail" panel, the first "Color correction" and third "Color enhancement" each dealt with in a few seconds. This is the fastest raw processor I have used once I got familiar with what things were for and how they affected the image.

 

I am wondering what the promised PN V2.0 will be like, although they've been threatening that for a year or more now and still no announcement of a definite date or even a public beta yet. There are a couple of stability issues I have on my machine when Bridge and Photoshop are open and I use Bridge to open a RAF file, which launches Photoshop which then launches PN, which then inevitably crashes PN, Ps or both. So I just launch from Explorer which then opens PN only, and nothing crashes, even if I have Ps running but minimised, so it's no big deal.

 

The V2.0 allegedly is a major rewrite - I hope that doesn't completely upend the controls layout and menus because I am now very familiar with things and I'd hate to have to start from scratch.

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I have to agree that PN handles x-trans raw files very well.  It is my favorite for my X100T because of the color, detail and dynamic range

 

18043852678_0464122b58_k.jpg

 

Please click to view larger

 

 

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Great guide Alan. I will definitely try this at home..

I use Capture One for my X-Trans files but I'm very curious to see how Photo Ninja compares to Capture One.

Edited by Lars Hansen

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The V2.0 allegedly is a major rewrite - I hope that doesn't completely upend the controls layout and menus because I am now very familiar with things and I'd hate to have to start from scratch.
 
I also hope it does not "ruin" what we Photo Ninja users love about this app!!
 
*****
 
Alan & other X-Trans users, you might enjoy Michael Johnston's column about his X-Trans: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2015/05/open-mike-why-i-chose-fuji.html I always enjoy his writing.
 
Also on that blog is a guest column by a Kevin Purcell about the X-Trans: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2015/05/noise-for-headroom-fujis-x-trans-sensor.html

The following quote from Purcell's column is somewhat mysterious to me given the photo Alan has just posted above:
 

The X-Trans color filter array actually reduces acuity. Yes, really it does! So, as many people have found out, it's not great for images with lots of very fine repetitive detail (such as leaves in landscapes).

I can't imagine why this fellow writes that !!! Methinks that perhaps he does not edit his images properly? Oh well, not everyone likes everything - especially when cameras are involved. :P But I want to drag this person over here to Fotozones and point out the above fine leaf detail. :D
 
I just had a successful LensRental.com experience with the new Nikon Coolpix P900 and its huge "2000mm equivalent" zoom. So I'm thinking that next up on the rental list should be one of the X-Trans cams. At this point I really need/want to try it myself.

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What is a good lens to rent with the X-T1? (....and thanks...)

I was thinking perhaps the Fuji 16-55/2.8 ??

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I have only the 23mm and 14mm lenses, which are fine.  

Reports are that the 16-55 is very good.

My understanding is that unlike the 14mm and 23mm, the zooms will employ software correction of distortion, which, if present, could affect the look of the pictures.   

I am unclear if the correction is necessarily baked into raw files, or only JPEGs.

Perhaps Alan could tell us what he has found re: the effect of in-camera distortion correction on the Fuji files.

Edited by pluton

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What is a good lens to rent with the X-T1? (....and thanks...)

I was thinking perhaps the Fuji 16-55/2.8 ??

 

I think I'll try the smaller 18-55/2.8-4.0.  And I"m dying to try that 56/1.2. 

 

I've been very impressed with Lensrental's system and service.  The first couple of times I rented from them I had to wait at home to sign for the delivery.  Now I have it delivered to the FedEx office near work, and I pick it up on my way home.

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The following quote from Purcell's column is somewhat mysterious to me given the photo Alan has just posted above:

Quote

The X-Trans color filter array actually reduces acuity. Yes, really it does! So, as many people have found out, it's not great for images with lots of very fine repetitive detail (such as leaves in landscapes).

I can't imagine why this fellow writes that !!! Methinks that perhaps he does not edit his images properly? Oh well, not everyone likes everything - especially when cameras are involved. :P But I want to drag this person over here to Fotozones and point out the above fine leaf detail. :D

 

 

Pointing to a DPReview jpeg (they only shoot jpeg, as evidence of an acuity test is shaky ground indeed to be judging the actual acuity performance of a sensor (in this case it's the camera's Silky Pix version of X-Trans processing OOC reduced to 8 bits and lossy compressed). I bet he also uses Lightroom to process his own RAFs, if indeed he's ever processed one. I would draw that conclusion as well given these parameters. Anyhow, regarding the universal DPR test photo, a flatly lit studio shot of a bunch of coloured objects, resolution charts, bottles, crayons, balls of thread with a DR of maybe 6 or 7 is hardly the "real life" situation that might actually tax a sensor.

 

I also tend to immediately dismiss any X-Trans "review" wherein the method used to demosaic isn't mentioned, or indeed if either Lightroom or ACR are named. People get up in arms at this and say they're "satisfied" and "like" the results from those processors, or that they "like" using them, but these are just personal feelings. I have literally reams of files here where I have over and over and over again tried to better, or even equal results from processors such as Photo Ninja by using ACR, and have yet to achieve a positive result. While I sometimes have come close, the pertinent common thing is that to do so with ACR/LR requires a whole lot more messing about than a simple, straightforward processing using just one or two panels and maybe four or so slider movements in Photo Ninja. Hence my heels are dug in on this, but I still don't outright tell people not to use the Adobe product, they're of course free to produce photographs processed to well below their potential if they wish. :D

 

I repeat my often stated opinion that the respect given to the majority of online reviewers and bloggers is entirely misplaced - most haven't the first clue or personal experience of what they're talking about, largely recirculating reworded opinion they've read somewhere else. This opinion is indeed mine, isn't reworded or recirculated, and I am convinced is actually a lot closer to the truth than most of the "facts" sprouted by these seekers of their 15 minutes of fame.

 

The wording of any opinion I express regarding things photographic, however, such as this very article, goes to lengths to point out that I don't claim to be an expert, don't claim that my results are conclusive, and don't suggest that readers blindly follow what I say, but encourages that people do instigate further research for themselves. If I report results, they'll be from experience with my own camera and my own computer, although if I find an online source with graphs and the like (not photos, I do those) that I do not have the equipment to produce I will use them to illustrate the point.

 

I don't need, or want, the 15 minutes of fame that some seem to crave - there are far more interesting things to do with life than chase that, which is why I don't have a website, don't write blogs, but do write stuff like this if I think something I've learned along the way can be useful or even helpful to others, and maybe save them some of their own life's precious time by not having to reinvent the wheel.

 

It's also why I write that sort of thing here in Fotozones, because this place is populated by people who listen rather than argue, yet will make counter points without aggression if they think I'm mistaken. Civilized argument is actually enjoyable, but the aggressive, testosterone-charged nonsense that goes on in so many other forums seems to me to give a good indication of where so much of the "expert" opinion of reviewers and bloggers comes from. :D

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Great guide Alan. I will definitely try this at home..

I use Capture One for my X-Trans files but I'm very curious to see how Photo Ninja compares to Capture One.

 

Please show the results here, Lars, I don't use C-1, but did try it once a long time ago (before I had used PN), a result of which my computer is now disabled from running any newer demos, so I'd have to buy the program to try it out. If you (or anyone else) wants the raw file for the photo I produced here to compare with I can dropbox it.

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What is a good lens to rent with the X-T1? (....and thanks...)

I was thinking perhaps the Fuji 16-55/2.8 ??

 

If you're trying an X-T1 for the first time, get the 18-55/2.8-4 - it gives a better rendition of the Fuji small/light/compact ethos than the 16-55/2.8, which is more a token to appease the Nikon/Canon 24-70/2.8 rusted-on users. The 18-55 is not weather resistant, but a small plastic baggie does the job just fine, or the camera/lens combo is small enough to slip into a rain jacket pocket anyway.

 

The 18-55/2.8-4 is only marginally slower at the long end, but it does have OIS (good for 4-5 stops, or down to as low as 1/15 sec, whichever comes first) which makes it a faster lens effectively than the 16-55/2.8, which doesn't have OIS. Optically the 18-55 is no slouch - while the focal lengths covered aren't the most visually exciting, the image quality is right up there with all the other Fuji XF zooms, which is to say that it is bloody good.

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I don't need, or want, the 15 minutes of fame that some seem to crave - there are far more interesting things to do with life than chase that, which is why I don't have a website, don't write blogs, but do write stuff like this if I think something I've learned along the way can be useful or even helpful to others, and maybe save them some of their own life's precious time by not having to reinvent the wheel.

 

It's also why I write that sort of thing here in Fotozones, because this place is populated by people who listen rather than argue, yet will make counter points without aggression if they think I'm mistaken. Civilized argument is actually enjoyable, but the aggressive, testosterone-charged nonsense that goes on in so many other forums seems to me to give a good indication of where so much of the "expert" opinion of reviewers and bloggers comes from. :D

 

Thank you for saying these things, Alan. This is the ethos of what I am trying to accomplish with Fotozones. As I have mentioned in the recently updated foot notes that appear on each page, unlike 99% of the other photography sites and forums out there, this one doesn't create content for the purpose of assisting retailers to move product by means of affiliate advertising. What we want here is the truth about the stuff we use, how it works and how others can benefit from using it. 

 

Fotozones is going exactly where I want it to go and thanks to the contributions that yourself and others are making, I will continue to get up every morning and steer the ship and stoke the burners because this is what I had in mind when I first started a photography forum back in 2006. A place of reality (long before those "real world" bloggers had even figured out how to use WordPress). :)

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Thank you for saying these things, Alan. This is the ethos of what I am trying to accomplish with Fotozones. As I have mentioned in the recently updated foot notes that appear on each page, unlike 99% of the other photography sites and forums out there, this one doesn't create content for the purpose of assisting retailers to move product by means of affiliate advertising. What we want here is the truth about the stuff we use, how it works and how others can benefit from using it. 

 

Fotozones is going exactly where I want it to go and thanks to the contributions that yourself and others are making, I will continue to get up every morning and steer the ship and stoke the burners because this is what I had in mind when I first started a photography forum back in 2006. A place of reality (long before those "real world" bloggers had even figured out how to use WordPress). :)

 

No worries, Dallas.

In light of that, I may as well point out that I have absolutely no affiliation with Fujifilm or its representatives (or with Fotozones, for that matter) so any endorsement is entirely my own and no sling-backs are involved, should anyone think this was a set-up. Thanks for sticking with the site and concept, I understand that it hasn't been the easiest of roads.

 

As far as the Fuji cameras are concerned I just happen to think that the X-system, and the X-T1 in particular, is brilliant and has returned to me the enjoyment in photography that had been waning since the DSLRs took over from film cameras.

 

Even though it looks like it is one of the oldest cameras available, the X-T1 is proving to be one of the most up-to-date designs of still cameras on the market, and gains more validity to that claim with every new free firmware update - I'm eagerly awaiting update 4.0 which should be here in four weeks or so, and we'll see if that finally quietens the noise from some corners of the DSLR world as to the alleged AF inferiority of mirrorless cameras.

Even if it still doesn't quite get there, this progress is proving beyond doubt that mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras are developing at a phenomenal rate, leaving the DSLR form looking rather as if it has reached its full potential and can go little further. There are no drums being beaten here - I owned six separate Nikon pro and second-level DSLRs in 8 years and used them professionally, which in itself I think underlines the veracity of my opinion. :)

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I don't need, or want, the 15 minutes of fame that some seem to crave - there are far more interesting things to do with life than chase that, which is why I don't have a website, don't write blogs, but do write stuff like this if I think something I've learned along the way can be useful or even helpful to others, and maybe save them some of their own life's precious time by not having to reinvent the wheel.

 

That is a very laudable and exemplary ethos -- thanks!

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Actually the DPR test shots are shot in raw and these can be downloaded. It is instructive to compare the X-T1 200 ISO test shot with the Nikon Df 200 ISO test shot, both developed in PhotoNinja. Looking at the results personally I see no basis for Purcell's claim about reduced acuity of the X-Trans sensor.

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Actually the DPR test shots are shot in raw and these can be downloaded. It is instructive to compare the X-T1 200 ISO test shot with the Nikon Df 200 ISO test shot, both developed in PhotoNinja. Looking at the results personally I see no basis for Purcell's claim about reduced acuity of the X-Trans sensor.

 

Indeed they are, but any comment on their site is regarding a processed file, the method of which being used is not mentioned (but more than likely ACR/LR, one would think, if not straight OOC jpegs?). Also if one were reading the site and clicking on the thumbnail, you'd get a jpeg.

 

You have it on the money that the only way to make conclusions is to process comparative files yourself from raw files of the relevant cameras and using the processor you prefer. Anything written on a website is pretty much irrelevant in the scheme of one's own experience, equipment and software, not to mention one's own specific output requirements (screen, display print, publication etc).

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    • By Alan7140
      Fuji continues with its updates - new AF tracking algorithm, and compatibility with the new Fujfilm X Raw Studio in-camera raw processor with tethered computer interface.
       
      http://www.fujifilm.com/support/digital_cameras/software/firmware/x/xt2/download.html
    • By PatrickO
      I needed something wider than 18mm for the X-E1 to take pictures whilst doing safety inspections of heavy machinery. The choices were my superb Sigma 12-24mm in a Nikon mount, the Fuji 14mm and the Samyang 12mm f/2.0. The Sigma is slow at f/4.5 and quite large, and the Samyang is half the price of the Fuji.
      The loaner Samyang arrived today, and after an hour's use my first impressions are quite positive:
      Nicely packaged; not luxurious but not the bare minimum either.
      Nice looking lens.
      Smaller and more compact than I expected for a relatively fast lens. With hood reversed the camera with lens attached will fit in a Lowepro AW50 on my belt.
      Well made; not quite the Fuji XF, but good finishing, well polished and feels substantial. However the plastic lens-hood and focus collar feel like hard plastic of a type I've known to break on other types of equipment, but this is a subjective observation.
      Printed lettering, not engraved.
      Substantial metal mount with three screws
      The aperture ring clicks are audible and feel positive, with two clicks per stop. The aperture stops are clearly marked on the top of the lens.
      The focus ring is fairly tight on a warm day (mid twenty deg C), with no chance of creep. From near-to-far involves just over a 90 degree twist, and the focus mechanism is internal and rear elements do move. Distance scale is on the top of the lens in feet and metres, and is quite legible but printed on.
      There are no depth of field scales on the barrel.
      The hood is large and reversible, and does obscure the popup flash so much of the bottom half of the image will be in shadow. Clicking into place is positive, but it may become quite loose over time. The camera rests almost flat with the hood attached
      The front element does not protrude past the body of the lens, so you could stand the camera face down without the hood on a flat surface like a desk (not that I'd recommend it).
      Optics are coated, with a purple sheen on the front element and amber-purple at the rear.

      First impressions on performance are also good:
      I haven't taken any images of brick walls, but distortion seems managed and not fish-eye. Lines through the middle of the image are straight, and along the edges the distortion seems to be a simple curve and not complex moustache.
      Colour is neutral and not yellow as some Sigma lenses can be.
      Bokeh is smooth, but I haven't tested it on point sources yet.
      There is minor purple fringing on the edges of the frame in high contrast areas (i.e. twigs against white cloud). This seems better to the centre of the image.
      Drawing is pleasant and neutral.
      There is some vignetting, but it's not particularly obvious.
      Depth of field ranges is enormous at narrower apertures and at the long end, but it does have a narrow depth of field at the other end. Close up at f/2 took me by surprise. Maybe 15mm of depth is usably sharp at closest focus, 15cm of depth at 1m away.
      Resolution appears good and sharpness too.

      And the lens is very easy to use:
      It is manual focus only. For snaps just use focus peaking and hyperfocal distance and the X-E1 gets it every time.
      Use the camera zoom function for close work and wide apertures.
      It is much easier to focus than the Sigma 12-24, because one had to be careful with such a wide field to focus carefully or the lens would hunt a bit (also to do with aperture).
      Small enough to be convenient, but not too small for my hands (not the biggest, but not small either)

      My verdict is that this is a keeper. I will take some interesting images over the next few days and add them to my impressions.

      View full article
    • By Alan7140
      On Sunday the Forests issue got traction yet again in protest to the current Federal government's attempt to have half of the recently declared (by UNESCO, at the previous Government's request) as extensions to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, with an on-location protest rally in the forest. Considering it was a cold day, and that there is only one road into the area and no facilities at all out there, some 2,000 people turning up from all over the State was indeed telling as to the public mood concerning the situation. The main road was parked on both sides for over 4km, which meant some had a decent return walk to accomplish, with the rally itself being held on a contentious forestry logging road.
      I had been contracted specifically to photograph 13 people standing in a line holding large cut-out letters in the form of a slogan whilst standing in the old growth forest. Now this may sound easy, but the room to do that simply doesn't exist in that forest, however a combination of the X-T1 & 14mm lens on a Nodal Ninja pano head, with the people standing in a part circle each 3 metres from the camera solved the problem just fine, 9 shots left to right. When stitched they appear to be in a roughly straight line . (Yes, I anticipated that & did it deliberately this way). Click on for 1920px HD size.

      I also covered the shot with the X-Pro1 and Samyang 8mm fisheye with the camera on a 60° tilt, and while this allowed more foreground & height it was nowhere near the IQ of the Fuji 14mm on the X-T1 above:

      I love the kid in the left background who got bored and went to look at the fungi
      The forest was dark as it was raining lightly, so I shot the thing @ 1/15 sec, f/7.1, ISO 1600 for each frame to avoid as much subject movement as possible without losing DOF, and despite taking 5 separate sequences on two separate setups I only had one fidgety bloke who managed to move his head each time, but slightly enough that it made no difference.
      I then switched to "coverage mode", shooting a series of speakers at the mic under a green marquis at 3200 ISO with the 55-200 lens and OIS engaged and only had to cull two shots out of the lot for movement. The IQ was better than acceptable, and I would have struggled for that keeper rate with the D3s (and for which I certainly didn't have a lens that could have gotten in so close with).

      Celebrity TV actress Lisa Gormley getting a bit emotional (Home & Away TV soap drama)

      Activist & Tasmanian forest tree-sitter (457 continuous days) Miranda Gibson
      Lastly I attached the X-Pro1 & fisheye to my fully extended RRS monopod and held it up at full arm's stretch after triggering the self timer @ 2secs delay for an "overhead" of everyone turned to wave at the "official" aerial photographer who had climbed onto a platform 20 metres up the tree to take his shot... (I say "official" inasmuch as several photographers had each been allocated their particular tasks - this was primarily an event for publicising via the media).

      So yes, I don't regret for one second switching to the Fuji - I was still fresh at the end of the day, no backache or shoulder pain, and my load including the tripod was around 6kg instead of over double that, all contained in four pouches on my Lowepro Technical vest and in my RRS Tripod bag.

      View full article
    • By Andrew L (gryphon1911)
      You may have read that we sold off all our Fuji X cameras and got the Nikon Df. We are happy to report that we are still very much pleased with the Nikon Df and use it whenever we can.
      The Df is my daily carry camera – it is with me 95% of the time. So what about the other 5%. Those are usually those times when having the Df is not practical. I’ve been wanting/lusting after what the Fuji X100s has to offer. I’ve only passingly handled the X100 and thought with all the improvements the X100s had to offer, it would be that much better.
      Walking into my favorite camera store this recently, I had every intention of leaving with the X100s. However, my friends there gave me the opportunity to use and handle the following cameras:
      Fuji X100s, Fuji X-T1, Olympus OM-D-EM-5 and the Olympus OM-D E-M1. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about all these cameras and I could not pass up the opportunity to work with them all head to head.
      I do not have sample images from all of the cameras, as this report is not as much about image quality as it is handling and performance speed. If we are honest, I think we know that the Fuji will have the IQ edge, especially in the realm of the hi ISO. We will concede to that right now.
      One of my main issues with the Fuji system has always been the speed at which the camera performs. This includes powering up, waking from sleep, accessing menu items and AF speed and acquisition.
      Let us have a quick rundown of the positives.

      Image © Fujifilm
      Fuji X100s
      Feels great in the hand.
      Solid build.
      OVF is nice, clear and bright. EVF is a great alternative to have.
      Upgraded MF(compared to the X100) is much better to use.
      Great 23mm f/2 lens

      Image © Fujifilm
      Fuji X-T1
      Solid build.
      Fit my hands like it was custom made for me.
      EVF was comprehensive and responded quickly to orientation changes.
      The top dials were solid and had a nice click to them. I did not think that I would accidentally knock any of them out of their position by accident.
      It seems to be the fastest responsive Fuji X camera to date(accessing menus, powering up, waking from sleep).
      Very quick AF in comparison to the other X cameras.
      Great prime and zoom lenses.

      Image © Olympus
      Olympus OM-D EM5 and EM1
      Very quick AF.
      Solid build quality.
      Good EVF.
      Nice feel in the hand.
      Great prime lenses.
      Now let’s talk about what everyone wants to know – which is, when compared to each other, what do I think?
      We need to level set/full disclosure and let you know what the shooting conditions were.
      When using an ILC, the kit zooms were used(The ones that claim “world’s fastest AF” in the ads…lol). For the Fuji, it was the 18-55mm f/2.8-4 OIS…the Olympus used the 12-50mm f/3.5-6.3.
      Images were taken/AF performance tested inside the camera shop, which had fluorescent lights. It was dim, but probably a little brighter than your average indoor environment.
      Also, this is not a scientific test. It is my learned observation and experiences that I am reporting on.
      We are going to start with the Fuji cameras since the X100s was what I thought I wanted the most and the X-T1 is what everyone is currently talking about. The AF speed on the X100s was still about the same as the X100, maybe a little faster. It did seem a little more sure, but it did have quite a bit of front to back shuffle before locking into focus. Once it got focus, it was almost always 100% accurate. Unfortunately, the X-T1 suffered from the same front/back shuffle before locking focus. Yes, it is very fast – probably the fastest AF I’ve seen in any X camera to date….but Fuji still seems to have a way to go on getting the AF to something great and not just adequate. I was disappointed in this behavior…which is sad because I so much wanted Fuji to be better than what it was. On the plus side, it is nice that the X-T1 can track focus in a continuous shooting mode.
      One of my biggest handling issues with the Fuji X cameras are AF point selection. I’ve gotten so used to my DSLRs and the 4 way pad being dedicated to picking the AF point – it was one of the reasons I had for deciding to drop my X-E1. This still is an issue here for both the X100s and the X-T1.
      Both the X100s and X-T1 felt good in the hand, albeit they have different ways of gripping them. The X-T1 is beefier and felt very natural to hold, especially coming from using a DSLR.
      Moving on to the Olympus offerings of the OM-D EM-5 and the OM-D EM1. I want to begin by saying that I was never a fan of m43 in the past. I always had a preconceived bias against it because of the smaller sensor size. That has all changed now that I was able to handle one and see what it is all about.
      Yes, we cannot get around physics and there are just some things that a smaller sensor just cannot do. I’ve noticed that there does not seem to be as large a dynamic range as the Nikon or Fuji cameras I’ve shot in the past. I will say that I was impressed at just how useable the files were from the Olympus cameras up to ISO 2000. It starts getting a little rougher around ISO 3200/6400…but if you nail exposure and don’t have a lot of pitch black areas….you can still have a good JPG to work with.
      Now… getting to what really impressed me on the EM5/EM1. The AF performance was almost instantaneous. I mean…I could not believe what I was seeing here. Same lighting conditions and with a slower (aperture wise) kit zoom lens, the Olympus nailed focus immediately and without any back/front dance as was seen in the Fuji offerings. I bounced all over the place grabbing focus at different distances and at different focal lengths. It did not seem like I could trip up the Olympus AF. Even with the contrast detect only AF of the Olympus OM-D EM-5 it was direct, to the point and accurate. I was surprised here…but in a very good way. I heard people before praising the AF performance, but I did not think it to be this good.
      The speed also moves over into the menu usage and boot up times as well. The menu systems run very quick and smooth. They are a bit deep, lots of options and they are not in any way similar to what I’m used to with my Nikon or Fuji menus. Startup from power off to on was very quick. Not DSLR instant, but way better than the Fuji cameras – not including the X-T1. Fuji listened and boosted the start up time for the X-T1. Good job on that.
      At the end of the day, what does all this mean?? It means that I walked out of the camera store with anOlympus OM-D EM-5 and 12-50mm kit.

      Image © Olympus
      Do I still want a Fuji X100s? Well, yeah...maybe in the future. However, by the time I am ready for that - Fuji may very well have a full frame X200 to replace the X100s....at least I'm hoping that is the inevitable direction.

      E-M5 12-50/3.5-6.3
      1/30, f/5.3, ISO 2000
      Want more information? OK…lets talk about it.
      When comparing the above systems, the Olympus was the most DSLR like in looks and control. The only thing that the Fuji X offerings had a resounding lead on over the Olympus was in sensor size and hi ISO image quality. The Olympus was better in almost every respect beyond that. And at base ISO - the Olympus m43 sensor is doing just fine. The image examples on this page should let you see that.

      E-M5, 12-50/3.5-6.3
      1/20, f/6.3, ISO 2000
      Add to this, the fast prime lenses for the Olympus system are way smaller, and can be found cheaper never hurts. I even preferred the EVF of the Olympus over that of the Fuji X-T1. Yes, the Fuji has more unique features, but I thought the smearing of the Olympus was not as pronounced in the low light shooting conditions as the Fuji. Honestly, I still prefer an OVF…but those seems to be looking more and more like a feature we will see less of as we progress into the future.
      In my mind, and for my way of shooting, if I need extreme low light, super high ISO performance, I’ve got my Nikon Df/D700 to choose from. The Olympus gives me a very responsive performance machine in a smaller package.

      E-M5, 17/1.8
      1/640, f/2.8, ISO 100
      I was honestly surprised I walked out of there with an m43 camera. I’ve shot with it for only a few days, but I am so happy with this cameras performance at this point. I did have a slight moment of regret at first, when I ran through an initial set of images. For some reason, I was not getting that "pop" or "wow factor" that I expected from the images. I thought that I was perhaps missing something as this is a new camera system to me. After a few days of research, I did realize 2 things:
      1 - optics on the OM-D matter. The kit 12-50/3.5-6.3, while convenient and weather sealed is not the sharpest or most contrasty lens. I noticed an immediate increase in IQ when I put on the 17/1.8 or the 45/1.8 prime lenses.
      2 - for some unknown reason, Olympus gives you the OM-D cameras setup as base as possible. I mean, they have a higher jpg compression on by default and the default noise reduction is a bit much as well.

      E-M5, 12-50/3.5-6.3
      1/80, f/5.6, ISO 1600
      Keep an eye out for a future post where I discuss how I setup the OMD EM5 to be optimized for the way I shoot. There are quite a few steps, but once its done, you never have to do it again.
      EM5, 17/1.8
      1/60, f/4, ISO 640
      And to end this all out - here is a random thought from me about mirrorless and the US market. This is just my theory and is in no way scientific.
      When I look at the mirrorless camera offerings, the majority of them looked a lot like the point and shoot style cameras we have been seeing for years. I think this hurts their perception because for years "professionals" used DSLRs and they have a certain look to them.
      Now that entry level DSLRs are sometimes less expensive than some point and shoots, no one wants to have their "pro" camera mistaken for a point and shoot...thus the mirrorless cameras don't get the marketing credibility that the DSLR still has here.

      EM5, 17/1.8
      1/1250, f/4, ISO 100
      I think Olympus saw this and when they went from the PEN design to the OM-D design, they will get a lot more of the casual users accepting it a "pro" level body because of the design. I think Fuji has understood this too and thus the look of the X-T1 will make it a more attractive option.
      Once the everyday folk understand that the mirrorless camera can come in many shapes and sizes, they will be more widely adopted. Again...just a theory, and a fraction of the reason that mirrorless is having a rough go of it here in the states.
      Visit Andrew's blog here

      View full article
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