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03/27/17 Review of one of my shots from Calico Rock with the Fuji GFX–Great dynamic range

This is a repost from Photos of Arkansas, however I wanted to add it to my blog.  This shot is from my 03/10/17 trip to Calico Rock, and the details of how I took shot are below.

 

 

Sunset and moon rise at Calico Rock on the White River

Sunset and moon rise at Calico Rock on the White River

Taken with a FujiFilm GFX 50s and 32-64 lens, ISO 200 hand held 5 part horizontal panorama. 

Calico Rock has to be one of the best places in Arkansas to go and grab a panorama and feature both wonderful scenery and the White River.   Just down stream on the White River you will find the town of Calico Rock and in this photograph the town is visible just off in the distance.  You can spend the whole day here and the scene is always changing.  On this day, I was there around 5:00 p.m. and there were no clouds in the sky at all.  Many times I have been there and just had a huge blue sky with no clouds.  For such a shot, clouds to me make it much more interesting, period.  However on this day just as sun was starting to go down, a line of clouds rolled in and the moon rose over them.  I could not have asked for a better scene.

On this evening I was shooting the Fujifilm GFX 50S, which is Fuji’s new entry into the Medium Format range of cameras.  Fuji is using the same 50Mp sensor from Sony that has been used by Phase One, Pentax and Hasselblad.  But this is the first large format camera from Fuji ever, as before all of their cameras have been APS-C.  More about the camera in later reviews, but I have to say I am totally impressed with what can be done with this camera.  I knew that the sensor had a lot of range since I used the Phase One versions, but never hand held.  The Fuji GFX is both considerably lighter than the Phase One XF and the 120mm lens has image stabilization something that no Phase One lens has.  Normally I have taken this in 15 exposures, 3 for each segment but with the GFX, I just took an exposure for the middle of the exposure range and pushed up the shadows and pulled down the highlights.  Neither of the extremes were blown out.  In fact the shadow recovery rivals the Nikon D810 and in fact may be just 1/2 a stop better.  But the real amazing facet was just how sharp the 120mm lens was, outstanding optic.

This image has shadow push in several areas, the entire lower half of the left and right sides were pushed at least 2 stops and the middle of the image which was not in the sun was push at least 1 stop.  The sky on the far left was pulled down 1 1/2 stops and the sky on the far right was pulled down 1 stop.

I took these Fuji Raw files straight to a panorama in Lightroom first, and then worked on the image in both Lightroom and Photoshop with several Topaz tools.

Overall the color and clarity is excellent throughout, and I have attached a couple of full sized crops below to show this.  The first is the lower right side featuring the bluff and the trees along the river.  This part of the image was pushed as much as 2 stops and I still have a nice green color in the trees that are just starting to leaf out.  The other crop is from the center of the image where the sun was shinning and again you can see that the amount of fine details is very impressive.

Lower right side crop of Panorama

Lower right side crop of Panorama

Center crop showing details in the fine tree limbs

Center crop showing details in the fine tree limbs

03/23/17 Fuji Sales Managers in the UK are talking up the GFX–A few thoughts

I noticed this post in Fuji-Rumors today: Fuji Rumors and Fuji UK Sales Manager comments 

On reading this post, I had to ask myself, is this the same person who told a group of UK photographers 1 week before the 02/28/17 release of the GFX that Capture One would support the GFX? A similar story was told to a group of photographers in Dubai also about 1 week before the UK Sales Manager made his comments. I had to write about this, as I feel that the situation between Fuji and Phase One (who makes Capture One) was very poorly handled.

I have to believe that Fuji was having conversations with Phase One on getting Phase to add support for the GFX in a future release of Capture One (C1). My assumptions are based on the following:

  1. As soon as images of the GFX started to show up on the web, there were many shots of photographers using a GFX while tethered to a computer running C1.
  2. Many of the photographers that had the GFX while under a non-discloser agreement (NDA) made comments on their various blogs that C1 “would” support the GFX.
  3. At least 3 Fuji officials made public comments in early sales roll out meetings that Capture One would support the GFX, several of these comments were captured on video.
  4. Fuji currently doesn’t have a very good tethering solution, and C1 and Phase One are considered state of the art for tethering.
  5. Since the GFX sensor was not designed with Fuji’s x-trans filter array, it would have been easier for Phase One to add support for the GFX since Phase One already uses the same 50MP Sony sensor in several of their own digital backs.

In the past Fuji has given users a scaled back version of Silkypix which is a very limited piece of software and no ability to upgrade to the full license of Silkypix for a discounted price.  Now with the release of the Fuji GFX, it’s a clear fact that Phase One will not be supporting it with C1. In the past Phase has made a point of not supporting other medium format cameras as they see them as competition. However Phase currently has no mirrorless platform and their IQ150 (which is the lowest priced back using  the 50MP Sony chip), is still close to two times  the price point of the Fuji GFX. Long term this will effect sales for P1 but not immediately. Phase did agree to work with Sony to make a special pro version of C1 which supports the various Sony mirrorless 35mm cameras and provides a great tethering solution.

From reading various notes, blogs, and on-line reviews, I have no doubt that Fuji was having some conversations with Phase One in regards to getting support for the Fuji GFX. Fuji executives have mentioned that the conversations broke down and they did not see anything coming soon. I have to feel that all of the Fuji Sales Managers in the field who felt it was OK to state that the support would a done deal was a huge mistake and a poor example of how to handle a possible future deal. Once the fact that Fuji and Phase One were talking, local U.S. Phase One dealers became very adamant that NO THIS WOULD NOT HAPPEN, PHASE ONE WILL NEVER SUPPORT THE GFX. The fact that Fuji corporate executives and Phase executives may have been trying to work out a deal was not something that local U.S. dealers would possibly not been aware of.  However after word leaked about possible Phase One support for the GFX U.S. dealers may have added pressure to Phase One to see that no deal between Phase One and Fuji could happen.

For Phase One, this is not a big deal.  They will continue to sell their high end and very expensive digital backs to the photographers that can afford them.  But for Fuji I see it as a huge loss.  Fuji currently has a few software solutions for raw conversion; Iridient Developer, Lightroom/ACR, and Silkypix.  None of these have a very good tethering solution and studio photographer want this.  As a landscape photographer there are times prefer to work tethered also.  Each of the raw converters I have references all have some issues.

Lightroom/ACR

Adobe tends to make one pass on a raw conversions and they either get it right the first time or you get a less than perfect conversion.  Currently the Lightroom conversion has problems with high ISO images from the GFX.  As you get past ISO 1600, you will start to see more noise, a red cast to the files and color/detail smearing.  It’s possible that Adobe will never re-visit this conversion for years.

Iridient Developer 

While Iridient has an excellent raw conversion, I did not find that their dng conversion was that good for the GFX files, unlike their similar conversion for the Fuji X-T2 which is excellent.  Iridient’s conversion while good still is limited by the lack of image adjustment tools that both Lightroom and Capture One have.  Both of which allow you to work on your image as a raw file not a tif.  I doubt that Iridient will ever be able to approach the tools that Lightroom or Capture One offer.

Silkypix

Where do I start?, Silkypix is made in Japan, the English translation in the interface is less that stellar and their help is about the same.  Silkypix is lightyears behind Lightroom or Capture One in how image adjustments can be used.  Even with Silkypix Vr 8 the software leaves a lot on the table.  The version of Silkypix that ships with the GFX is not even the full version of the software, and is dialed back, disabled version.  Basically it will convert a raw file to a tif, and that is it.  This has been the way the Fuji has handled raw conversion as long as I can remember.

With Lightroom Fuji has a start on a good process, but there is no reason to believe that Adobe will continue to improve the raw conversion demoacsic, which is the real key.  If Fuji had been able to work out a deal with Capture One they would have had a wonderfully powerful solution and a huge competitive edge over Hasselblad and the X1D.  For now Capture One has a vastly superior raw conversion of the Fuji GFX files especially if they are taken at ISO ranges past 1600.  I still have to believe that some of the Fuji Worldwide Sales Manager should have kept quiet about the possibility of Fuji and Phase working out a deal. 

Paul Caldwell Photography

03/22/17 Dpreview takes a 180 degree opinion on the GFX–my thoughts

It’s interesting to see the opinion of the GFX at Dpreview take such a 180 degree turnaround from their first posting. But if you take their points to task, there is not too much to complain about.

1. Low Light Performance, here Dpreview compares with the Sony
A7RII, which in their own side by side tests, does not hold up
well at ISO’s above 1600. The touted BSI design, did not really
do that much from my testing. I was not impressed with the
A7RII past 800 and in fact was surprised to see that many
times the D810 seemingly outperformed it up to ISO 3200. Also
the A7RII is pretty worthless for any long exposure work unless
you turn on LEN, as it has some of the worst noise I have ever
seen. If you use LEN, then you can’t stack without gapping.
AGAIN, I am sure that Dpreview is using Adobe for their raw
conversion, (I hope that they are testing raw not jpg) and not
using C1. YES, LR/ACR do not favor the GFX currently on high
ISO conversions, considerably more noise.

2. Base ISO Dynamic Range, comparing with the D810 @ ISO 64.
Sure the D810 has a lower range, but from shooting the both
cameras side by side, the shadow push on the GFX is amazing
at ISO 100 and 200. I would say equal to at 64 compared to 100
and the GFX will still perform better at ISO 200 over the D810 @
ISO 200.

3. Shallow DOF, this one surprised me. Not too many MF
photographers on Dpreview? MF has a shallower DOF out the
gate over 35mm, so you don’t need a F 1.2 lens, a F2 lens
should be acceptable. Only time will tell as Fuji has not given
an idea as to when the 110mm will ship. I have shot MF for
years and have spent thousands on tech cameras to allow for
tilt to counter act the inherently shallow DOF of MF film and
sensors.

4. Resolution Canon 5DS-R compared to the GFX. Totally
surprised me, based on my use of the Canon and especially
Dpreview’s own reviews of the 5DS-R. Even at it’s lowest ISO
range, I can’t see the Canon holding the same or better
resolution than the GFX, and past base ISO the noise and
banding will defeat the image quality.

Fuji has some warts with the GFX however.

1. No C1 support, they should have figured out a way to get
C1/P1 to write a Pro version for this camera. Current tethering
support is not that good and as I mentioned LR raw conversion
is not that good for higher ISO images, (could be better).
Fuji continues to push a scaled version of Silkypix. If you want
to make it in the pro world (where this camera will be the
most appreciated since the iPhone and similar devices have
now placated the masses, you have to come out with a better
software interface for your raw (NOT JPG) files.

2. Fuji totally missed the mark by not having all 6 lenses available
at first release. Why? Were they no 100% sure the camera
would be successful? Fuji needs to get the 23mm and 45mm
out now. As to the comments by Dpreview there is no way
Fuji will ever catch up the number of lenses available for 35mm
cameras, period. Moot point. However the lenses that have
shipped optically are stellar, and that can’t be said for many
35mm lenses.

3. MF Clutch on the lenses. Due to the focus by wire design
of Fuji, you really NEED to have a MF clutch on the lens.
Fuji incorporated this on many of their X series primes but so
far none of the GF lenses have this. Since you lose your focus
point (even in MF mode) when you either turn off the camera or
switch to playback mode, it would be nice to have a clutch that
over-rides this just like the X series primes.

Paul Caldwell03/22/17

03/15/17 Fujifilm GFX 50S–An example of excellent Dynamic Range

The FujiFilm GFX 50S uses the same 50MP chip that has been used by several camera companies over the years.  Phase One uses this chip in the IQ150,250 and 350, and Pentax used it in their 645Z.  Recently Hasselblad used the chip in the 50c Medium Format back and the new X1D mirrorless camera.

In tests I had made with the Phase One IQ250 and IQ150, I saw that the Phase One implementation provided some excellent dynamic range in the ISO 100 to 800 range, but still seemed to be a bit noisy past this.  Especially when shadows were pushed.  I was hoping to see the same amount of push with the Fuji implementation in the GFX.  I was able to test this on a recent shoot at Calico Rock.  I worked as series of 5 part panos all hand held.  My goal was to only shoot 1 shot for each segment and not have to bracket the exposures since I was hand holding the camera.  The last segment on the far right was a classic shot where half of the image was in shadow and the other half in full shade.  I was metering more to protect my highlights, so the shadows were exposed very dark.  This can be seen in the side by side shot below.

Fuji GFX testing Calico rock

In this side by side view you can see the original shot on the left and where I have pushed up the shadows on the right side.  From this view it’s a bit hard to really tell just how much room there is in the file taken at ISO 200.  So I have taken a few crops at a 100% view.  In this view notice the amount of details that are present in the rock bluff and trees along the bluff.  Also note how well the light green leaves show up.

Fujifilm GFX 50S dynamic range

Shadow push from the Fujifilm GFX 50S

 

In this shot, by far the most impressive, look at how much color and detail were still available.  Look for the green pine needles and the brown fall leaves on the oak.  Also you can see again a lot of finer branch details that were not visible before I pushed the image.  The key here is the image before is basically black, so the amount of push is close to 3 stops total, between exposure push and shadow adjustment.

Comparison for Fujifilm GFX 50s on shadow push.

Comparison for Fujifilm GFX 50s on shadow push.

Not bad!! In fact excellent for ISO 200.

This type of push would easily hold up in a large print.  So what I have learned so far:

  1. The Fujifilm GFX allows easy hand held work with the 120mm lens and 32-64mm lens
  2. There is a huge amount of room in the shadows for push from the base ISO of 100 up to around ISO 800
  3. You can get easily 1 to 1.5 stops of push up to ISO 1600
  4. The files hold up very well with no loss in color saturation, no smearing or excessive noise
  5. By far the best raw converter is Capture One on files where you are attempting to push shadows

 

03/11/17 Feedback on Fuji GFX 50s–A great start for Fuji with Medium Format

After a lot of waiting and wanting, Fuji has delivered the GFX to worldwide use. I am extremely grateful to have one as it’s readily apparent after the first round of shipments, that the April 2016 earthquake affected the Sony Chip plant a lot more than many in the U.S. understand. Fuji is still backordered on the X-T2 almost now 1 year since it’s announcement. And now the GFX 50s is slowly filtering into the photographic world. Most of the information I have seen and comments are from photographers in the far east or Europe. Very little U.S. reaction, but I am aware that there is a huge back order on the GFX. I am very grateful to B&H Photo for getting me at leas the GFX 50s and 32-64 lens. I had to move to Amazon to find the 120mm, but it arrived in one piece even though the shipped just dropped the Fuji box in another box with no padding, Amazing. Fuji can’t even ship the lenses in any volume.

I ordered my GFX on the 19th of Jan, with the the 32-64 lens, then on the 24th added the 120mm (even though I feel it’s grossly overpriced for what you get), then 1 week later ordered the 63mm. I held off on the 63mm, as it’s equivalent to 50mm on a 35mm camera and I just don’t use that focal length much. I also had the sense to order a spare battery, as they are also in very short supply. For a all day shoot, you will need more than 1 battery. Possibly 3, and they don’t charge up very fast, taking around 1 hour to 90 minutes to fully charge a battery with the Fuji Supplied charger.

There are a lot of comments out there about the GFX being ‘ugly”, or “huge”, or “DSLR” like etc. Most of this seems to be coming from photographers who purchased the Hasselblad X1D. No doubt the X1D is smaller, lighter, and a more striking camera, but for me in my work the GFX fits just fine. I prefer to have a tiling LCD, always. I like Fuji’s placement of the Shutter speed and ISO settings on the outside with separate dials. The remote’s I that work with the X-T2, worked fine with the GFX including the intervalometer, excellent. The grip is large enough to hold but I wish they not put the Q button on the grip, as I hit it all the time.

For my work, the GFX fits in very nicely. I was able to hand hold the camera for multiple pano shots very well. As a landscape shoot only, I feel that Fuji missed the mark on a few of areas.

1. No manual MF clutch on the lenses. If you are working a critical scene, and need to check your focus by going into play mode, the GFX drops the previous focus point just like the X series cameras. You can hit focus check and attempt to get it back, but since the camera is focus by wire, you will never really hit the exact same spot twice. If the lens had a MF clutch like many of the primes in the X line do it would be possible to switch the lens to MF via the clutch then manually focus, check your focus in play mode then continue to shot knowing that focus point did not change. Making such high end glass without a MF clutch to me is a bit oversight. NOTE, just switching the camera to M from S will not fix this issue. Each time you go to play to check focus you will lose previous focus point.

2. I have an issue with the fact that on play back the default zoom is way past 100%, more like 150%. I don’t understand why Fuji allowed the one push zoom to go past 100%. I you want to enable zoom past 100% fine, but let the default be 100%. Without this, each time you check your focus you are forced to pinch the screen down to zoom out as using the wheel doesn’t allow as precise a control. You cannot determine good focus with a 150% zoom, just like you can’t on a Nikon D810 which also zoom way past 100%.

3. The GFX continues as the X series cameras do to blur 1 of 3 bracketed shots. This happens as you drop your shutter speed down into the 1/15 to 1/4 of sec range during the bracketing. Of course I am using a tripod for these slower shutter speeds but the camera managed to blur many of the slower shots. I did no have the electronic first curtain enabled or electronic shutter, and I guess I should have tried them.

4. I would have greatly preferred to have the drive mode controlled with a switch around the ISO dial just like on the X-T2. Sure you need to setup the bracket in the camera menu just like you do on the X-T2, but to engage it I prefer a manual switch. The “drive” button is not in a great location on the GFX, being on the front top of the camera.

5. Fuji made the base of this camera huge. So it’s going to be very costly to make a L bracket for it. I understand the need for the bulge for the battery and LCD, but couldn’t have there been a slight extension added to the base to give it a more narrow appearance. Just me I guess.

6. AF performance in good light is excellent, in fact I feel it’s better than my X-T2 or X-Pro2. However in low light, often times the camera gets a AF lock, but it’s not accurate. This fooled me quite often on my first outing. With subjects way off in the distance, you will need to check your focus via playback to make sure you captured the best focus.

7. The current Lightroom/ACR conversions for higher ISO files is terrible. I have compared them to in camera jpgs and conversions by Capture One and the Lightroom conversions have way to much noise, and color smearing around areas of light and dark transition. Thank goodness it’s a simple thing to make the raw files open in Capture One, or I would more than likely returned the camera. The software that Fuji includes is worthless, a cheapened low end version of Silkypix. Fuji should have worked closer with Phase One to attempt to get P1 to break policy not supporting any non P1 Medium Format cameras.

Overall the camera is a wonderful addition to my toolset and I will use it often. The files are amazingly clean and the lenses deliver excellent clarity and sharpness. Hand holding the camera is very possible and I sure hope that the soon to be released 23mm and 45mm share this same high end quality.

Paul Caldwell

Written on 03/11/17 for paulcaldwellphotography.com