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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