A quick post this morning to round up the week:
- I have a new essay on the Kage Collective site entitled Gods & Machinery. Entirely shot with the X-Pro1 and XF 35mm f/1.4 lens. Used a personal offshoot of the new VSCO Film 03 as part of the editing process.
- In other Kage news: Derek Clark is one of 10 finalists in the News category for Professional Photographer of the Year UK. Amazing achievement. Huge congratulations on that one.
- Flemming Bo Jensen is doing his nomad thing and shares his beat poet thoughts in a wonderful post entitled To be a kid again.
- Robert Boyer is still at it and has promised retaliation in our ongoing challenge. Can't wait to see how that turns out. In the meantime check out the first eBook of his new Lighting Field Guides series. It focuses solely on window light but I guarantee you'll never look at patio doors the same way again. I'll have a full review eventually but believe me: well worth the $4.99.
Last but not least: proper X Trans raw demosaicing finally comes to Adobe Lightroom. It's not in the official version just yet but Release Candidate 4.4 is available for download and appears to be stable enough to use. I've been testing this and I have to say it's a huge improvement over the previous version. The files out of the box are slightly softer than before but you can now push all the sharpening parameters as you would on any other file without introducing the dreaded watercolour syndrome. I'm still seeing some issues with things like grass but to a much lesser extent; overall I'd say we're finally seeing proper rendering of these raf files.
I did however need to use the Moiré brush on some product shots that didn't need it before. It's always about tradeoffs. But with this update I'm now going to consider raw files much more seriously when shooting the X-Pro1.
A few test shots below. Not necessarily an example of the most problematic type of image but it's what I was shooting. All processed from raw and shot with the X-Pro1 and XF 35mm f/1.4. The last image is a crop of #2 — That's pretty darn sharp methinks.
A few more pics from last Friday’s street shoot. I wanted to mention something: after making a point of shooting raw+fine in my One Year with the X100 post I ended up shooting all of these JPEG only. I went back to my old settings of Aperture Priority, Auto ISO, Auto Dynamic Range but chose Astia instead of Provia. And you know what? I’d forgotten how amazingly this camera works at these settings. Some of my enthusiasm is probably due to this being my first street shoot since the aperture blades were fixed - something I now realize had been a problem for longer than I initially thought.
When I decided to shoot JPEG only with the X100 some time last year, I made a point of equating this to shooting a film camera - in the sense that I needed to nail exposure et all and not rely on the possibilities of error correction afforded by raw files. I think I may have come full circle on this. I’ll be damned if I can find a single file that would’ve benefited from shooting raw in this series. Some of these would’ve turned out differently… Very differently. But better? i don’t think so.
It’s amazing how easily we fall back into patterns. The fact is that adding raw to the X100 mix makes me second-guess myself. It forces me to check the raw file “just to see”. And then it forces a decision: which one is better? 99% of the time it comes down to esthetics. I usually don’t mess up while shooting so it just becomes two variations on a same theme, both equally worthy.
So… mea-culpa. While I stand by my assessment of raw files as added security, as digital negative with all the future-proofing these provide, I do believe I’m going back to JPEG with this camera. It’s faster, more responsive and I was using the JPEG files 9 times out of 10 anyway.
To hell with insecurities.
P.S You win Derek ;)
With last night’s Camera Raw Update 3.7 came a most welcome addition: Aperture 3 support for the Fujifilm Finepix X100 camera. A nice surprise given Apple’s sometimes leisurely pace when it comes to supporting the latest cameras.
But strangely, I am now faced with a serious dilemma.
I know. Why should I be racking my brains over this right? Native RAW support means I should now simply hit the Image Quality menu, switch to RAW and be done with it. I mean, when I first started looking for a compact walk-around camera my one criteria was RAW files — I dismissed everything that was JPEG only. That’s how much of a RAW shooter I am. So what has changed?
I’ve been shooting JPEG for 40 days, that’s what.
When I look at what I’ve shot so far I can’t say I feel cheated in any way. The images look damn good. They look good at 100%; They look good printed.
When I found the Adobe DNG Converter trick I did quite a few RAW vs JPEG tests and in the end decided to stick with JPEG. I wasn’t that impressed with the difference and generally thought the in-camera files had better overall noise control, one the X100’s strength.
So I’ve gotten used to dealing with those JPEGs and have found them to be surprisingly sturdy in post. Less headroom and control? That’s the big trade-off. But as I mentioned in this discussion I’ve been approaching the X100 like a film camera, making sure I get exposure and white balance spot on when shooting instead of relying on the fluidity of RAW. It’s a much more deliberate way of shooting that I feel fits in perfectly with how the camera works. This isn’t a machine gun with 3D tracking.
From my initial tests I can say Apple has done a great job with the RAF files, making the decision all the more difficult. Converted files are pretty close to in-cam JPEGs and the re-appearance of De-noise in RAW Fine Tuning (which wasn’t there with DNGs) is a godsend.
There is however a difference in the quality of noise: the grain isn’t as fine and looks more mottled. It’s still ok, but it IS different. There also seems to be a bit more vignetting which points to Fuji adding tweaks when processing for the lens.
There are also slight differences in tone (especially reds) and the obvious shadow/highlight interpretation depending on how you’ve set the camera’s Dynamic Range settings (which don’t apply to RAW).
That’s always the thing isn’t it? Compromise, compromise, compromise. Obviously I can get the best of both worlds by shooting RAW+JPEG. But this — for me at least — adds a layer of confusion I’m not sure I’m prepared to deal with. The problem becomes one of self-editing: which version is the best one. Most of the time both will be perfectly fine... but different. There’s that word again.
In the end, with the X100 I don’t think I’d be choosing RAW for added file quality. The in-camera files are that good. I’d be doing it for peace of mind: the ability to tweak exposure and white balance after the fact, to recover highlights. RAW as my security blanket.
In a professional context, with my Nikons, this is a no-brainer. I want that peace of mind, that security. I also need to be able to change my mind in post, go with another interpretation I may not have thought of while shooting the scene. But I bought the X100 for personal use. We’re preparing our trip to France and I just don’t want to think about storage over there. If I shoot JPEG I’ll have more than enough cards on-hand and I’ll be able to backup to my iPad without even thinking about storage space.
I’ll also come back and edit what I shot, as is, no second guesses. Screwed up the exposure? Too bad. Next.
There’s a certain serenity that comes from knowing all the decisions have already been made. Am I discarding RAW entirely? Of course not. I also might flinch over there and hit that odd RAW button once in awhile. But for the most part I’m going to live on the edge. To hell with security.
This RAW shooter’s X100 will be bleeding JPEGs... for the foreseeable future at least.
More pics below.
I posted about this last night but dinner was ready and I was in a hurry. So here's the official list of cameras supported — beyond the X100:
- Fujifilm FinePix X100
- Nikon D5100
- Olympus E-PL2
- Olympus XZ-1
- Samsung GX-1S
This update adds support for Aperture 3 and iPhoto 11. It doesn't include OS level support, so Preview and the Finder are still clueless about X100 raf files.
Get it from Software Update or from this page.