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04/13/17 A few misconceptions on the Fuji GFX that continue to swirl around the web

I have continued to be impressed with the Fuji GFX.  I finally found a solution to my needs for a longer lens with the older Mamiya 200mm F 2.8 APO lens.  I will be sharing more on that in the future.

What has been a bit disappointing is how some reviewers continue to spread “mis-information”about the GFX.  This seems to have started with some early comments made in regards to the “inability” to not measure a Fuji GF lens for focus shift and now has moved into areas like magnified live view, and manual focus capabilities of the GFX.  It also seems that many of the problems  appear to be from users who have not taken the time to work with the Fuji menu system, which is very similar to the X series cameras from Fuji like the X-T2.

There have been a lot of comments on lack of quality of the Fuji Glass:

My comments are that the optics are excellent, and yes they are light weight but I am happy to have 1/4 the weight of a P1 Schneider LS lens if I can see the same optical quality, which I do with all three of the lenses I have. They are overall excellent to my findings. The 32-64 has a bit of rectinier distortion @ 32mm and on the far left side mine is a bit softer. So I can’t give that lens a 100% great overall review. But so far I have found it to interfere with any photography. The 120mm is amazing and so is the 63mm. The fact that Fuji did not use a LM on the 63mm is a BIG disappointment to me as it’s AF speed is much slower and it will hunt much more often.  The AF in low light could use improvement as it will tend to hunt.

There have been a lot of comments on the issue of baked in sharpening on the Fuji Raw:

If you use non supported raw converters on the Fuji Files, which would have no way of reading anything baked in, the files appear fine and sharpen up just they do in LR. I personally don’t believe it’s possible to bake in a sharpening setting to any file but I will leave it at that. Yes, Fuji bakes in the optical corrections to the files that has always been the case with all Fuji cameras, and yes LR will see these and apply them, there do not include sharpening.  Note to test this open any Fuji GFX raw which has been converted to a dng in Capture One.  Even if the RAF to dng conversion by Adobe keeps the “baked”in sharpening for a raw file, Capture One would not use it period.  Capture One DOES NOT support the GFX thus any form of raw sharpening would be dropped.  To use a converted Fuji dng in C1 you have to totally drop both the company name and camera name so C1 will open the files with it’s information for a Phase IQ250, not a Fuji GFX.

There have been several comments on the fact that Fuji bakes in diffraction corrections to the raw:

If you use any Fuji camera and turn on “lens Optimization” yes, Fuji will bake in diffractions corrections to the jpg files.   These corrections are not supported by raw converters like LR or ACR or even C1 (on the supported x-trans cameras). This has been published many times as these raw converter developers did not want to take the time to figure the algorithm that Fuji used. I have no reason to believe that for some reason, this now works on the RAW for the GFX. I have contacted Fuji US and they have told me the “Lens Optimization” only applies to jpg and “in camera raw” conversions where the Fuji optimization data can be read.

There have been many comments on the lack of ability to use Magnified Live View to manually focus:

Again, it’s possibly that users don’t have a good understanding of Fuji cameras. With Fuji you have two options for the EVF to display the file. As it is with exposure taken into account. And a more wide open max lighted view (display preview off). This 2nd option will give a fully lit view for live view display but you can easily over expose the image since you may forget to read the exposure meter on the far left. With the preview effect off, even in very low natural lighting I have no problems with manual focus in Live View.

There have been many comments on the lack of sharpness in magnified Live View:

Yes, if you zoom in all the way the details will be hard to see. Please understand if you are zoomed in all the way, you have zoomed way past a 100% view, more like 150%. This is similar to attempting to view an image on a D810 in live view with the magnification zoomed all the way in. Net you really can’t tell much. You have 3 zooming options for the Magnified live View, and I tend to use the one in the middle. If you are attempting this without peaking enabled, I believe you will have a lot more trouble determining good focus.

Also, please understand that in preview mode, if you hit the zoom button one time, the camera’s default zoom is WAYYY past a 100% view, and you can’t determine accurate focus. I no of no way currently to dial that one touch zoom down like you can with Nikon. But you can pinch the screen like with an iPhone to shrink the maxed out view back down. In my experience you need to zoom out close to 1/3 of the default view.

I can’t compare to the X1D as Hasselblad is still shipping these in a very limited amount.  I also refuse to place a camera on order and then wait up to 8 months to receive it.  That basically freezes a capital expenditure for my business that I can put to good use elsewhere.  No doubt Hasselblad has totally failed on their ability to deliver this camera in any worthwhile amount.   It’s my opinion that this will possibly have an effect on repairs also as if Hasselblad can’t even make enough cameras to cover orders from as far back as June of 2016, how can you expect to have them repair one.  Also what is the current Hasselblad repair process on the X1D?  Fuji has clearly stated their process of using the current US repair center and has trained current staff on the GFX system.

I just have issues with the fact that it appears that some reviews don’t understand anything about Fuji’s design, and dive in, and then start making claims that the camera is defective, when it’s clear they don’t have a full understanding of Fuji’s focus by wire setup. It’s not perfect but it works.  I made a mistake on the Fuji focus by wire setup on the GFX as I assumed it worked the same as with the other X-series cameras, which is not true.  With any X-series Fuji, if you are in S mode and switch to M for manual focus, you will receive the message “focus check” as many times the movement from S to M, will move the existing focus point throwing your image slightly out of focus.  It is also true with an X-series camera, if you turn off the camera even with the camera in M mode, you will again be asked to “focus check” as the process of powering up the camera will cause you to lose the existing focus point.  With the GFX, I have found that neither of these issues exist.  You can switch from S to M and or turn off the camera and the current focus point is not lost.  I have checked this out a multiple number of times.

If there is a fault for sure the way Fuji designed the neck strap lugs is a bit stupid? They make the use of any other type of strap hard to do and the lug will flip around and get in the way of the memory card door. I prefer to use the Peak Design straps.

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

10/27/15 Fuji X-Trans Raw Conversions–Which is best Lightroom or Capture One

In 2015, Arkansas did not present a good color display really anywhere throughout the state.  Since July Arkansas has been short on rainfall and the month of September and first half of October no measurable rain fell in the state.   Most of the trees just turned brown.  There were some spots that held OK color, but they were the exception.  Since 2014 was such a great year on the Buffalo National River for fall colors, I have been going back over some of my shots.  Many times I was using my Fuji X-T1.  I realized once again that there is still no perfect raw conversion software for Fuji files however it does seem to me that Lightroom CC has made some improvements.

Since the announcement of the Fuji X-Trans cameras, which now max out at 16MP in an APS-C format, there has been a lot written about which raw conversion software provides the best output.  At present there are three main solutions:

  1. Iridient Developer
  2. Lightroom CC 2015
  3. Capture One by Phase One

I have worked with all three and since Iridient chooses to only work on the MAC platform, I rarely use it.  I prefer to do the majority of my work in either Lightroom (LR) or Capture One (C1).  One of the single largest issues that comes up with Fuji raw files is how to get the most detail out of the files.  Due to the different layout on the CMOS chip, the Fuji raw file needs a different domosaicing algorithm than most Bayer pattern CMOS sensors.  You can easily find out about the differences by a quick web search and since so much has been written already I am going to move on to the actual raw conversions.

With the Fuji files, I personally don’t think you can make definite all or nothing statements, as C1 gets around the issues by applying too much blur in the demosaicing alogrithim, and LR seems to pull out the edges a bit more than necessary, neither of the tools seem able to get all the surface details that are there, (when you use Iridient developer for example). To me C1 has some positives, but so does LR and in no way do I see C1 as the end all to Fuji conversions.

But to my eyes, many times the LR conversion looks better and holds up for sure in a interpolation scheme for making a larger print. Color out the gate C1 wins more times than not, but I can get there in LR. Overall I feel the C1 images converted loose too much details and get a bloated look where as the LR files can start to take on a overdone look which is some cases can start to look painterly.

But for sure I can’t say C1 is better than LR or vise versa and I have been working on Fuji X-trans files now since early 2013. LR has gotten better in that it no longer has the issue with haloing around green/blue transitions, which was such an issue before.

Here is a side by side comparison of a Fuji X-T1 raw taken in the fall of 2014.  Note that what I am writing holds true for the X-E1, Xe2 and XT1 as they all share the same sensor.  Click on the image at anytime to view it larger. I used the 18-55 on the X-T1 and as I recall the file was taken at 200 iso.

Fuji X-T1 raw file conversion

A side by side conversion, Fuji X-T1 file in C1 and LR

In this example, I have taken a typical photo from one of my Arkansas landscape studies.  This image is the middle of a 3 part panorama series I took.  In this case I was not looking for a true 1:3 ratio pano, but instead I planned to stitch the 3 files into 1 normal 3:2 landscape shot which would allow me to have more resolution for printing.  I do this often in my work.  Out the gate, I feel that the C1 image has a bit better representation of the color that was displayed, however the LR file is not far off.  This type of shot is a hard one to work since I had to expose for the sky and still have enough room in my foreground to pull up the shadows without losing too much details to noise.  Both C1 and LR were able to give me the strong yellows and reds that were available and also provide for a nice tone to the blue sky.  But now lets look at a few crops from each of these files.  To capture these crops, I opened both images in Adobe CC 2014 and then selected view at 100%.  I feel that the only way to really tell how well a image file will hold up in printing is to view at 100%, not view at print size.

With each file I used the default sharpening of the raw converter, in fact I added a bit more to the C1 conversion as I felt the default left too many details on the table.

Fuji X-Trans raw conversion comparison

Example No1 Fuji X-Trans C1 and LR comparing file details

The LR conversion is on the right, click on the image to view it as large as possible.  You can start to see that the C1 conversion appears a bit soft and begins to take on a interpolated look to the finer details.  Areas that stand out to my eyes, are the green trees on the distance hillside and the bare tree trunks.  When I look at those parts of the files, the LR conversion just looks better, whereas the C1 image is quite soft.  Also look into the yellows on the gum tree in the foreground.  The LR image may yet be just a bit soft but you can still see more details in the leaves.  If you were to attempt to interpolate this file to print it larger, the C1 image is going to give way to a much softer look.  On the Fuji image I would want to run one round of “Focus Magic” to add just a bit more detail to the yellows and greens.

Fuji X-Trans files

Example 2 , C1 and LR a comparison in raw conversion software.

A close up on the lower left of the shot. Rocks can pose problems and usually I have given C1 the edge here, however with the latest round of ACR in LR, it’s improved and I have to give LR just a slight edge.   The LR conversion has a bit more even look to it, but the overall amount of details seems about the same to me.  The details left out of C1 could easily be picked up again with any third party sharpening solution such as “Focus Magic” or “Topaz In-Focus” both of which use deconvolution algorithms.

Fuji X-Trans raw file conversions

Example no 4, a comparison of C1 and LR on Fuji raw files

NOTE again the greens on the LR image appear overdone. Looking closely at the greens you can see some of the issues that LR has. LR picks up the outer edges a bit too much and when you have a lot of greens then you can start to get a painterly effect if you are not careful with the sharpening settings. I still prefer the LR conversion as overall it appears sharper to me. Also look for the finer details in the shadows as the LR file has more there also. Top left of the crop look for the finer branches in the gun tree, they stand out much better in LR.  Here I found that C1 pulled a more pleasing look to the large rocks in the foreground than LR and LR also has a bit of red showing in the large gum tree trunk.  Both of these issues could be fixed with a slight color balance tweak and a bit of shadow recovery.  The water in the immediate foreground looks pretty much the same.  But again make sure to click on the image to view it larger.  Then compare the green branches on the left side right above the rocks.  There just is more definition on the LR file.  Also look into the yellows just above the already mentioned greens and see if you don’t agree that there is more detail present in the LR image.

Fuji X-Trans raw conversions

Example No 5, a comparison of C1 and LR raw conversions on Fuji X-Trans files

This last crop shows how well LR has improved on pulling out finer details against a blue sky. There is just more there and the areas in shadow right above the bluff look better in the LR conversion. But the strongest example is the yellow gun tree, again this is a view taken at 100% view, there is just more detail in the yellow tree and it’s going to allow for a larger print in follow on.

Let me say, there is not a right answer here. Sometimes I go with LR, others with C1. However I often do hand held panos with the X-T1 and now that LR allows the ability to create a pano in LR and save it as a dng I tend to start in LR first. The ability to work on a pano as a dng to me is invaluable as before you had to try to get all the segments close then export and use a stitching software to combine. Now you can work on the dng as one large image before you export. So far I have been very impressed with what LR can do with a pano on the Fuji Files in outdoor landscape situations.

You can get sharp conversions from LR on Fuji files, and to me the end results look better. But you do have to really control the details and sharpening sliders in LR to get the best look. Is it perfect, no, and I had hoped that LR/Adobe would have a newer process available now since back in June there was such a bit announcement by Adobe about working closer with Fuji on the raw conversion. So far only the fix for haloing on finer details seems to have been done.

Is there a better raw converter for Fuji? Yes I feel that Iridient Developer by far gives the best look to the files especially one like my example, but:

Iridient is MAC only, has a very limited toolset, all adjustments effect 100% of the image (no adjustment brushes or masks at least last time I checked), and Iridient will not export as a DNG, which to me would be a great solution. You can download Iridient for a trial and run conversion tests. The difference is pretty impressive most of the time unless you are working a Macro type of shot.

Just more food for thought.

Paul C