#JPEG

Revisiting Italy and Fuji´s XF 18 mm F/2 R

Of all the many places I’ve had the luck to be, one has captured a special spot in my heart: Italy. The light, the people, the climate. It is just such a special combination! Went there again end of march with my beloved wife and … My new Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 R. Most reviewers on the net have a so-so to downright bad opinion of this little lens (some even say it’s Fuji’s worst …). That intrigued me - I likes to swim against the current and I’d always loved the 28 mm field of view on my full frame cameras. So I decided to get one & try it. Regardless. Please read on if you are interested in my experience with this lovely little gem!

Cà Palazzo Malvasia, a lovely BnB near Sasso Marconi. View from our terrace with X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6

We´d booked a night at a Bed & Breakfast near Sasso Marconi (close to Bologna): Cà Palazzo Malvasia. The first surprize came even before arriving: We got a friendly welcome message from the staff inquiring our ETA and informing us how to get there - never had that happen before! Then on arrival we were just completely floored by how beautiful the place is, renovated with so much care & attention. Way better than it had looked on booking.com! And Victoria, the charming lady at the reception took great care of us and made our stay truly unforgettable! Quindi, Victoria se per caso leggessi questo: Grazie mille per un soggiorno meraviglioso. ci ritorneremo! So, if any of you happen to travel the Bologna area (check this out), here’s a wonderful & relaxing place to stay. Highly recommended!

Ok, so what about that little Fujinon XF 18 mm f/2 R now? Check out the below image … Don’t you think it has a wonderful “organic” (whatever that means … ;-) look to it?

Cà Palazzo Malvasia, carefully renovated in “lo stile dell’epoca”. Taken with X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/20 sec

As mentioned before so many out there seem to hate this lens coz of its apparently mediocre image quality. So what! I prefer to see things for myself & make up my own mind. Not just parrot what others say. Point is, Fuji’s little 18mm is for me a lens with “character”, because it’s not “perfect”. And that’s why I like it (those of you who know me know I have a soft spot for lenses with character ;-). And it’s extremely compact & unobtrusive - the smallest Fuji lens still having an aperture ring (IMO a necessity). The plants in the image of our terrace below didn’t even realize they were in the image!

This was our terrace in Cà Palazzo Malvasia from which the first image was taken: Fuji X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/8

But how’s it perform? Now I don’t usually photograph brick walls blown up to 1000 pixel peepin’ percent, so those of youse interested in that sort of thing might wanna look elsewhere on the net. I prefer to take pictures of real world, 3 dimensional people and things and I gotta say I was impressed by the results this little lens delivers. They got a kinda “magic glow”, as you can see in the image below:

The interior of Cà Palazzo Malvasia is decorated with heart! Fuji X-H1 with XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/9 sec

Overall I found the sharpness to be very good, especially in the central zone. Easily comparable to my X100F’s 23 mm f/2, even surpassing it at closer subject distances & larger apertures. Please note that the above image was taken at 1/9th (one ninth!) of a second. Hand held! No, I’m not “steady as a rock” ;-) Just got helped out a bit by my X-H1’s image stabilization! Those of you interested in technical details please check out Fuji’s specs here and Imaging Resources’s excellent review here. However, I gotta say this lens ain’t no good for photographing brick walls or flat subjects, coz it does suffer a bit from some softness and purple fringing in the image corners, which still linger on, even if you stop it down a bit. Maybe that’s where all the negative reviews came from: Many of those so-called “reviewers” photographing brick walls & test charts … and freakin’ out about the corners … ;-)

Cà Palazzo Malvasia - a lounge like a private living room, captured with Fuji X-H1 & XF 18 mm @f/5.6, 1/30 sec

I really love the way this lens renders, it’s still a kinda “Old School” design not yet exhibiting the clinical rendering of modern “digital” lenses. Like a sculptor’s tool, carving shapes & tones out of light and shadows. Simply poetic …

However, there’s no light without shadows - a couple things about this lens I’m not so enthusiastic about:

  • The aperture ring: Definitively not a hallmark feat of engineering. Rather stiff and with imprecise tactile feedback on the 1/3 f-stop positions, it’s difficult to adjust intuitively. Feels a bit like a crude prototype crafted by a journeyman in his first apprentice’s year. Meanwhile Fuji has greatly improved the adjustment and feel of aperture rings on their newer lenses

  • The autofocus noise: This lens makes no secret of the fact that it’s focussing (still has a traditional DC AF motor with gears moving all the lens elements around). Luckily it’s only audible in completely quiet environments and the AF operation is reasonably fast (especially with the latest camera firmware installed). My pretty wife must’ve thought there was a mouse in the room ;-)

My pretty wife in our nicely decorated room in Cà Palazzo Malvasia: Fuji X-H1 with XF 18 mm @f/4, 1/15 sec

Ok meanwhile the jury’s back - here’s the conclusion on Fuji’s XF 18mm f/2 R:

Pro’s:

  • Compact and lightweight but well made. With this lens on a smaller body you don’t really have any excuse to not always take your camera with you (and not miss any photographic opportunity anymore)!

  • Unobtrusive, combined with a 28mm (full frame equivalent) moderate wide angle field of view. It’s ideal for immersive street photography - ‘pulling’ you into the action, provided you have the guts to take those 2 steps closer (remember Robert Capa? “If your pictures aren't good enough, you weren't close enough!” )

  • Excellent centre zone sharpness, already from max. aperture onwards. “Organic”, three dimensional image rendering, with lovely bokeh in out of focus areas. This lens is predestined for storytelling & environmental, documentary style work. Also this lens has low chromatic aberration and distortion (corrected by firmware), making it ideal for environmental portraits (1/2 body images in landscape orientation)

  • Quite fast and accurate focussing (with newest camera firmware)

Con’s:

  • Price: At 600$ not really a bargain!

  • Some softness and purple fringing in the image corners, improves at f/2.8 but not completely eliminated when stopping further down. Therefore less useful for architecture & landscapes

  • Stiff aperture ring with imprecise click positions

  • Autofocus operation audible in quiet environments

Stylish shadow details on our terrace at Cà Palazzo Malvasia: Seen with Fuji X-H1 & XF 35 mm f/1.4 @f/8

Summing up, this lens is great for those:

  1. In love with the 28 mm (full frame equivalent) moderate wide angle field of view

  2. Preferring a compact, unobtrusive prime lens with larger max. aperture to a zoom

  3. Focussing on storytelling & documentary style people / environmental photography

For all others its probably better to get a compact zoom which has the 18 mm focal length included, eg. the XF 18-55mm f/2.8-4 R LM OIS

I hope I could offer you some interesting information, ideas and advice for your own photographic aspirations! As always your appreciation, comments & constructive critique are most welcome - please leave me a note in the comments section below or at my “about” page. Wish y’all a great Sunday and may you find the best light!

Many thanks for visiting & all the best,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Into the Light: Look for the Shadows (Fuji ACROS-R Settings)

Shadows. What do they mean? Depends on your point of view & mood: darkness? melancholy? pessimism? Or do they point towards the light, leading the viewer´s eyes to the bright tones in your image, creating an impression of brightness, hope, and optimism? You decide! Use those shadows to manifest the existence of light. Want to learn more? Please read on to find out!

Into the Light, with Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/2.8, 1/34sec ISO1600 developed in LR CC mobile

Difficult image, this one. Dynamic range clearly exceeds the latitude of the JPEG file, but I wanted the shadows to come in black as ink to strengthen the impression of moving into the light at the end of the corridor. That's why I usually use Fuji´s ACROS film simulation with shadow tone set to +3 (very hard). As some of youse may know I do nearly all my post processing on my iPad Pro on Lightroom CC mobile, using Fuji´s magic ACROS JPEG´s

However, when diving into the corresponding RAW file I can discover a couple more stops of dynamic range in the shadows by dialing down the shadow contrast. But I didn't wanna make ´em visible as this  would've created too much of a HDR effect for my taste. But if y´all interested I could do a follow up post showing how that looks, please leave me a comment below if interested! ;-)

Courtyard doors, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/5.6, 1/60sec ISO400 developed in LR CC mobile

Also above image got a shadow tone of +3. Gives me solid black w/o detail between the doors for my trouble. But if I reduce the shadow contrast to 0 or -1 I get a too flat gradation in the door panels. The door panel shadows are too close to black making it difficult to get sufficient contrast separation, so I left the image as I´d originally taken it. Below image is much better balanced:

Table by the window, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/5.6, 1/75sec ISO400 developed in LR CC mobile

The table and chairs have a special glow to them, coz I usually use a medium soft highlight tone of -1 which gives me more tonality and flatter gradation in the lighter tones of the image. However you gotta watch it: Don't use -1 or lower highlight tones in images with predominantly lighter tones (eg. with a lot of sky) as the resulting contrast is too flat and you don't get no more pure white. For me the image below´s on the edge in that respect: Contrast in the floorboards and the wall is maybe a touch too flat:

Chinese hallway, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/2.8, 1/42sec ISO1600 developed in LR CC mobile

The below image has a broad gradation from black over mid-tones in background to white, nicely bringing out the texture in the wall and the floor:

Chinese doorway, Fuji X100F, 23mm f/2 @f/5.6, 1/220sec ISO400 developed in LR CC mobile

Summarizing my preferred ACROS settings are:

  • ACROS-R (red filter) or ACROS-Y (yellow filter)
  • Dynamic range on Auto or max. 200% (400% flattens gradation too much)
  • Highlight tone -1 or 0, depending on the amount of light tones in the image
  • Shadow tone +3 to deliver those punchy black shadows
  • Noise reduction -3
  • No additional grain (ACROS has an ISO dependent grain built in)
  • Limit ISO to 1600 for architecture & landscapes to limit grain

Hope you enjoyed the read, please let me know your comments or questions below (or leave me a note on my about page), I will be most happy to answer them as soon as possible. Many thanks for visiting, best regards

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

There IS a Life Without Image Stabilization | Fuji XF16-55mm F2.8 WR NoOIS!

Afraid of the shakes? No problem, use image stablization, or “OIS” (Optical Image Stabilization) as Fuji calls it. Some hate it. Most love it, can’t be without it like as if they’re addicted. Was like that with me too. Thought I couldn’t live without it. Until I took a decision which forced me to survive without the anti-wobble technology. Please read on to find out what happened (especially if you don’t care ;-)

I know you don’t care ... this one didn't need no image stabilization, X100F 23mm @f8, 1/120sec

As long as you live in daylight it don't really matter. Any lens does just fine. But when the sun drops below the horizon & light becomes scarce your "any lens" is gonna need either a flash, a tripod, or an image stabilization crutch. That'd work assuming you want to photograph a static subject. But as soon as something in your image moves (and you want to render it reasonably sharp) there's only ONE option: Aperture! The larger the better. Get the largest aperture you can find. Image stabilization ain't gonna help and yes, flash would still be an option but that's not really viable if you want to capture the charm of available light. The image below was taken hand held. Would’ve needed image stabilization. Didn’t have it:

Too cold to sit outside. Night time bar scene, XF 16-55mm at 16mm, @f/2.8, 1/20sec, ISO1250

Coz I’d traded my XF 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 (with OIS) to get an XF 16-55mm f/2.8 (without OIS). This Lens' missing OIS has caused some on the net to fondly call it "The Brick" (like as in a worthless paper-weight). Now why would I go and trade my perfectly good OIS zoom for such an OIS-less "Brick"? It wasn't easy but in the end the following factors tipped the scales for me in favor of the "Brick": I've learnt I need 5 things for my architecture / landscape / people photography:

  1. Max possible aperture to freeze subject movement (image stabilization don't help here!)
  2. With at least a 16mm (24mm FF equiv.) on the wide side for architecture & group photos
  3. Reaching at least up to portrait focal length (85mm FF equiv.) on the long side
  4. High quality zoom lens - don’t fancy changing lenses (I got amathophobia - fear of dust ;-)
  5. Portability: Reasonably compact camera/lens combo, no tripod or gear bags to lug around

So, Fuji´s XF 16-55mm f/2.8 WR fits above requirements like a glove (while my XF 18-135mm missed out on the first two). I use the XF 16-55mm predominantly for reportage and portraiture, where my subjects are usually moving. In this scenario image stabilization don't really help me. Even it would've been technically possible to also include OIS, the caveat of further increasing size and weight (and not to forget the price) of the lens would have not been worth it (for the previously described use case). I guess Fuji followed a similar logic when they decided to opt out of OIS on the "Brick". The lens is reasonably compact and remains portable. It's also perceived as being less intrusive by your subjects. Try putting the XT-2 / XF16-55mm combo next to a comparable CaNikon full frame DSLR with 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom attached. You'll see what I mean, pushing a DSLR lookin' more like a WMD into someone's face probably´ll scare the living daylights outta them, turning a lively bar scene into something like the image below ;-)

All quiet bar after closing time, captured with XF 16-55mm at 16mm, @f/2.8, 1/18sec, ISO3200

A word on aperture: The advantage of the smaller (vs. full frame) APS-C sensor is that you get more depth of field at the same aperture due to the shorter focal length compared to the full frame equivalent focal length. For example a 50mm "normal" lens on full frame has a field of view comparable to a 35mm on APS-C. Using f/2.8 on both delivers more depth of field in the APS-C image as there the lens needs to be of shorter focal length to achieve the same angle of view. Consequently the disadvantage of APS-C is that you´d need a larger aperture vs. full frame to get a more shallow depth of field and similar subject - background separation. For example a 85mm full frame portrait lens will render the background in a pleasing blur at f/2. To get a similar effect with an APS-C equivalent focal length of 55mm you'd need at least f/1.4 ... My XF 18-135mm had a max. aperture of around f/4.5 at 55mm and I needed to stop down to f5.6 to get optimal sharpness in portraits, which means my max. aperture in full frame terms would be only around f/4. Apart from the lower brightness which forced me to use higher ISO´s I could never really achieve a pleasing background separation like in this image with the XF 16-55mm:

My pretty wife, wearing my glasses, with XF 16-55mm, at 55mm @f/4, 1/450sec, ISO400

Just the way I like it, the eye closer to the camera sharp and sharpness nicely dissolving towards the rear into a completely blurred background!

Now, coming back to my initial statement: There IS a life without image stabilization, please see proof in the image below. It was shot hand-held at 1/8sec with my XF 16-55mm f/2.8 zoom at its long end (55mm APS-C / 85mm full frame equiv.), without the "benefit" of image stabilization. Ok, so OIS would've helped here, coz there are no moving subjects in the image. But as the majority of images I make with this zoom have moving subjects, the added weight, size and cost of OIS would not be worth it in my opinion!

Night-time street scene, with XF 16-55mm at 55mm, hand-held @f/2.8, 1/8sec, ISO3200

I hope this post was interesting for y'all & able to give you some advice in case you're on the fence to acquire the XF 16-55mm "Brick" - believe me, you'll find it's more of a "Nugget" than a "Brick". A gold "Nugget" - an amazing lens which you'll use for more than 90% of your images. No more changing lenses, risking missed image opportunities and/or getting dust inside your camera! While weight & size remain reasonable, the X-T2 or X-Pro2 combo fitting snugly in a small pouch

Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

A Merry (Fuji ;-) X-mas: 4 intuitive settings for your Fuji X100F!

Crazy how time flies, again one year has nearly gone by and another new year is just about to start! With this post I just wanted to thank all of youse who’ve visited by blog & put up with my ramblings for your continued support, constructive comments and interesting questions (hopefully all answered). And of course to wish y’all a merry X-mas and lots of fun & success for 2018! In Europe they celebrate the “Advent”, kinda like a countdown of the last 4 Sundays to X-mas, see below image of Advent candles captured with my beloved Fuji X100F (btw also a big thanks to Fuji for that wonderful 23mm lens with that dreamy rendering at f2!)

3 burning, 1 to go: “Advent” countdown to X-mas, Fuji X100F @f2, ACROS JPEG in LR CC mobile

Always got my X100F with me. Never leave home without her. Her name’s “Irene”. I know that’s nuts, but it is like it is. Can’t be changed. No cure. Sorry. S’funny, my X-Pro2 & my X-T2 ain’t got no names. Dunno why, they just no names kinda cameras (or they just haven’t yet grown on me as much as my X100F has to warrant gettin‘ named ;-) OK I gotta ‘fess up here, I got history with the X100 series. And no, I didn’t start with the original X100, like ever’body else seems to have ... For me it was only love at ‘S’econd sight: The X100S was what caused me to jump ship from the LeiCaNikon camp, see here and here. Never looked back since. Didn’t. Ever! After the “S” came the “T” and finally I ended up with the fantastic “F”, see below me & my “Irene” reflected in X-mas decoration ;-)

Me & “Irene” reflected in X-mas deco, Fuji X100F @f2.8, ACROS JPEG in LR CC mobile

Now hear this: Fuji’s X100F has taken the X100 series magic to a whole new level: 24mp X-Trans III sensor, X Processor Pro, and other marketing fluff y‘all can read about ad nauseam in millions of tech reviews all over the web ... But what really counts (next to the lovely 23mm lens, higher resolution, better AF and the amazing ACROS film simulation, etc.) is the result of combining all these features with the X100F‘s highly customizable user interface. This makes the X100F so special & intuitive, enabling it to truly become the proverbial ‘extension of your eye’. It allows you to manifest your vision & perception of the world around you in your images without ever getting in your way. Uncanny. Even people you’re photographing forget about it after a couple seconds (if they even notice it at all, thanks to the super stealthy electronic shutter ;-). So, as a small X-mas treat I’d like to share my favorite user interface settings with y‘all, please read on & enjoy!

Chairs. Infinitely stacked, ACROS JPEG, processed with Lightroom CC mobile

There are 4 settings I want to be able to change real fast, without moving the camera from my eye & without needing to fumble with buttons, menu‘s, etc.: Focus point selection, easy Face / eye detection setting, fast switching flash on or off (incl. its relevant settings) and simple ISO / exposure compensation. Let’s take a look (and you ain’t gonna find the tips in the second & third item anywhere else!):

  • Focus point selection - that’s the easy one, just use the joystick next to the LCD display to move your focus point to right where you want it. No more “focus - recompose” antics!
  • Face / eye detection setting - assign the “face / eye detection” function to the “down” button on the 4 way Controller at the back of the camera, then you can press the “down” button to activate this function and continue pressing “down” to cycle thru all the face / eye detection options all in one fluid motion, neat huh?
  • Switch between flash / without flash operation - assign the “shutter type” function to the “Fn” button on the camera’s top plate and set flash function setting to “ON”, “TTL” and adjust your flash compensation as required (eg. -2/3 EV, for optimal fill flash). If I then want the flash off for normal photography, I cycle the “Fn” button to electronic shutter “ES” and the flash is switched off (no flash operation with electronic shutter). If i come across a scene where I want to apply fill flash at the blink of an eye, I cycle the shutter type back to “MS+ES” (mechanical+electronic shutter) or “MS” (mechanical shutter) using the “Fn” button, which immediately again activates the flash with the preset flash exposure correction (-2/3 EV in this example). Cool!
  • ISO / exposure compensation: Last but not least, setting the exposure compensation dial to “C” and the menu item “button / dial setting“ > “ISO dial setting (A)” to “COMMAND” allows you to use the front command dial to toggle between changing ISO settings (jncl. Auto ISO) and exposure compensation by pressing it and adjusting the respective settings by rotating it. Of course this renders the nice “retro” style ISO-compensation-integrated-into-shutter-speed-dial and the exposure compensation dial redundant, but they still do look good & you can always use ‘em as back-up ;-)

See below a summary of my favorite X100F user interface settings in more detail (Fn button allocations, Q-menu and My Menu settings) for max intuitive operation:

My favorite Fuji X100F user interface settings for max intuitive operation

Of course I’d be most happy to answer any detailed questions you may have (please leave me a note in the comments section below) & wish y’all lots of fun & great images with your Fuji camera, especially also best wishes for the new year. Many thanks for looking by & looking forward to hearing about your experiences!

Best regards & merry (Fuji) X-mas!

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Capture with Style!

Been some time since I posted ... Was kinda busy movin´ house & couldn't find my camera ;-) Now I´m back with Style! Capture (-ing) with Style, using Capture One Pro 10 with a modified Style (never liked the "canned" stuff, always like to do my own thing!). Please read on to find out more!

Into the Sun, with XF 35/2 WR on X-Pro2, Capture One 10 with modified BW-15 Style

In Capture One Styles are sets of presets driving several adjustments simultaneously, while presets adjust only a single parameter, eg. "grain". Means you can dramatically speed up your post processing workflow by applying such Styles during image import. By selecting a Style suiting your needs you can automatically adjust eg. gradation curve, sharpening, noise reduction, etc. of your images when importing your images into Capture One and you´re already 90% done without lifting a finger!

Bridge in the Park, with XF 35/2 on X-Pro2, Capture One 10 with modified BW-15 Style

As already mentioned here my favorite Capture One Style is the BW-15 (grain) black & white Style, which IMO comes closest to Fuji´s amazing ACROS JPEG film simulation. But the grain´s too much salt in my soup and the default sharpening settings seem a bit too aggressive. So I was trawling (not trolling, mind you ;-) the net for optimal Capture One settings in combinmation with Fuji´s 24mp X-Trans III RAW files & stumbled across Thomas Fitzgerald´s "X-Trans-Files-in-Capture-One-Guide". A great read, costing only 4€ and well worth it in my opinion!

Red Chair on Stone Patio, XF 16-55/2.8 WR @16mm, X-T2, CO 10 with modified BW-15 Style

Using Thomas´ settings for 24mp RAF files in Capture One 10 as a starting point I modified Capture One´s BW-15 (grain) Style by reducing grain level to 60 and optimizing sharpening and noise reduction settings slightly (of course you can also use your own favorite settings). The trick is to select an image, apply the style, adjust the various settings to your satisfaction and save it all as a new Style (take care to deselect those items which are image dependent):

Deselect presets which are image dependent!

This ensures the same film simulation, gradation (tonality curve) and grain are saved in your new Style but image specific parameters, like exposure, contrast, etc. are not affected!

Apply saved Style & auto adjust on import!

Then select your new Style and "auto adjust" in the import menu. This makes Capture One apply your Style and auto adjusts exposure parameters automatically during import, resulting in 90% ready images, which only need minor final tweaking (if at all)

View from Villa Sermolli over Buggiano in Tuscany, Italy, X-T2 with XF 16-55/2.8 WR @23mm

Summarizing, Fuji JPEG´s are good but RAW files just have that extra flexibility: If you want to get the best outta your images you gotta go RAW, allowing you eg. to change color sensitivity (like applying color filters during post processing) and offering that extra bit of highlight headroom. Looking forward to your comments, questions, and critique, thanks so much for looking by,

Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Picktorial - A New Kid on the Block for Fuji Fans!

Hi! Stumbled over this: Picktorial v3 post processing software (Mac only - special introductory offer!). Many thanks to Fujirumors (good place to get the latest Fuji news) and Thomas Fitzgerald (where I always go for expert image processing advice) for pointing me to it! The main reason I´m now starting to use it for all my post processing is coz for the first time there is ONE SIMPLE, intuitive platform for image management AND processing, compatible with Fuji JPEG and (compressed / uncompressed) RAW images, please read on how so!

Candles in Church, Fuji X-T2 and XF 23mm / f2, ACROS JPEG processed in Picktorial

As mentioned before here I mainly use ACROS JPEG´s & rarely do RAW anymore. So, a couple weeks ago I was in an awesome Russian orthodox church with my lovely wife & fancied capturing the rich gradations and tonality of this scene. Then I would´ve developed the ACROS JPEG with Lightroom CC (LR) and resorted to Capture One (CO) in case I´d want to try any fancy RAW processing ... But I really don't like hulking for hours behind a computer. Nope. And, using different bits of processing software means I need to have all kinds of directories on my Mac to save intermediate versions of my images (I´m kinda paranoid about losing my work ...). On top of this both LR and CO use catalogues, so I need to manage and back up those too ... I tell ya, I could've become an IT expert (who maybe gets to take a photo now and then ;-). No sir, not good. Not good at all!

Picktorial has an intuitive, fluid & simple user interface (look & feel very similar to Apple´s legendary Aperture, which was unfortunately discontinued). Overall it´s very minimalistic: No jumping around between library and develop panes as in LR. It works directly in your image capture folder and stores your image edits in the image file (for JPEG, TIF, DNG) or in a XMP sidecar file (for RAW) w/o changing the original image. By this non-destructive workflow you can backtrack your work anytime (even taking out single steps) and save your image as often as you want without any image degradation. If you want to transfer your images just be sure to copy the whole directory (images incl. the XMP files), then you can just pick up from where you left off!

Russian Orthodox Mural, Fuji X-T2 and XF 23mm / f2, ACROS JPEG processed in Picktorial

Another great Picktorial feature is the luminosity masks (yes, photoshop has those too, but it´s much easier to use with Picktorial), please check out this great instruction video from Eric Marcs at findingmiddleearth.com (I´m still a learner on how to do that properly ;-)

The only additional feature I could wish for is to have a mobile version for my iPad which can sync with the desktop version (like Lightroom mobile), that would be awesome!

Picktorial offers an easy, fluid, and seamless experience and is much faster than Lightroom, I love the simplicity and intuitivity of the user interface!

Last but not least I compared the results with my until now preferred applications:

RAW file processed in Picktorial

RAW file processed in Iridient Developer

JPEG file processed in Picktorial

RAW file processed in Capture One Pro

RAW file processed in Photo Ninja

JPEG file processed in Lightroom CC

Summarizing the results I can recommend Picktorial as an easy & fast processing tool for those who want to minimise post processing effort & get best possible results w/o a lot of effort

Many thanks for visiting & please leave me a message in case anything is unclear or is you´ve any questions, best regards

Hendrik

I hope this post was helpful / interesting for you - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance!

Fuji ACROS: Amazing JPEG´s with Film-Like Grain !

Since Fuji appeared on the scene we have been spoilt by intuitive cameras delivering wonderful images & amazing JPEG´s - Hey, some photographers didn't´t even wanna touch RAW´s ! And now that the new 24 MP X-Trans CMOS III sensor is here (Fuji X-Pro2, X-T2 and the new X100F) we get as bonus the ACROS film simulation mode for smoothly gradated black and white JPEG´s with deep blacks and a beautiful film-like grain texture. Interested how to get the best out of ACROS ? Please read on !

Waiting at the Airport, seen with Fuji X-Pro2 and XF 16 mm f1.4 WR, SOOC ACROS JPEG

Since going digital I´d always missed that "organic" film kinda look I got from my beloved Kodak Tri-X negs (man, I loved that film ...). Now, finally I can get it in digital - just compare below crop of a RAW file, developed in Capture One Pro 10 (left image) to crop from the original SOOC JPEG, which sports a subtle but distinct grain effect:

RAW developed in Capture One Pro 10

SOOC ACROS JPEG

This grain is amazingly "organic", way better than the more "sterile" digital grain which is applied in post as a generic image overlay eg. with 3rd party software ! ACROS has some kind of magic algorithm built in which selectively applies analogue grain, depending on ISO level and tone - you get "photographic" looking images with wonderful smooth gradations and a subtle "film-like" grain, right off the bat:

50 Shades of Lighter Grey ;-) captured by Fuji X-Pro2 & XF 35 mm f2 WR, SOOC ACROS JPEG

To achieve such JPEG images SOOC and still get sufficient "punch" in the shadows I apply following settings in my X-Pro2´s Q-menu (saved as preset):

  • ACROS-R film simulation
  • GRAIN effect OFF (ACROS has its own built-in ISO dependent analogue grain effect)
  • -3 NR (noise reduction)
  • DR auto (auto dynamic range)
  • -1 H-TONE (highlights contrast)
  • +3 S-TONE (shadows contrast for sufficient "punch")
  • +1 SHARP (sharpening)

I´ve discovered that the sweet spot (detail rendering vs. micro-contrast vs. grain) for ACROS simulation is around 2000 ISO. To compensate the JPEG´s reduced highlights & shadows recovery latitude (vs. doing RAW development) I set the highlights tone to -1 (increased highlight tonal range) and my dynamic range to "Auto" (automatically adjusts dynamic range to the subject contrast), see example image below:

Casting Shadows Ahead, with Fuji X-Pro2 and XF 35 mm f2 WR, SOOC ACROS JPEG

I´ve really fallen for this ACROS film simulation, and you can't get it any other way except by shooting JPEG´s ! So I set my camera to record RAW´s & Large/Fine JPEG´s. This allows me to speed up my workflow by primarily using JPEG´s and having the RAW as a back-up in case tricky post processing is needed (only in approx. 10% of the cases). Another benefit is that the image review on the camera´s LCD uses this high quality JPEG rather than the embedded low quality one when shooting RAW only

Hope y´all enjoyed this post & there was something interesting in it for you ? Thanks for looking by and of course you´re most welcome to leave me constructive critique and/or questions in the comments section below or on my "about" page !

Best regards & have fun shooting !

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance !

Want Best Image Quality From Your Fuji ? Here´s How !

After my first try-out of Phase One´s new Capture One Pro v10 (here) I thought those of youse in constant search of getting the very best image quality might be interested in a re-comparison of latest available RAW development solutions ! For this I took a challenging high contrast image shot after dusk - quite scary how much achievable image quality still varies among contemporary RAW converters. Curious ? Please read on !

Great result: XF 18-135mm @18mm f/5.6 1/8" on X-Pro2, developed in Capture One Pro 10

Small side remark: I´m repeatedly amazed about what I can do with Fuji´s XF 18-135mm OIS (Optical Image Stabilization): Apart from replacing a full bag of lenses I´m getting sharp results down to 1/8 sec at any focal length (sometimes even 1/4 sec !) - Hello ... that´s 4-5 stops autonomy vs. non OIS lenses ! Means I could take the above image of a museum venue after dusk at ISO 3200, f5.6 and 1/8 sec hand held !

Ok, so before looking at the various RAW converters I´d first like to share the SOOC JPEG taken with Acros-R film profile - a bit too dark for my taste:

Original SOOC JPEG, using ACROS-R film profile - too dark IMO !

I compared following RAW converters (in order of preference):

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any of the above software providers, nor a "fan-boy" of any one of them - I just choose the best solution for my type of images and workflow. However I excluded some RAW developers (Raw Therapee, Silkypix, ACDSee, Aperture, ...) from this comparison as these either were not available to me, or not compatible with Mac OS Sierra, or having an IMO too complex user interface (eg. Silkypix). So, in case you don´t agree to my conclusions you´re most welcome to leave me a comment and/or suggestions below !

Basically I aimed for maximum highlight recovery and dynamic range, covering all zones from pure black to white with balanced gradations of grey in between. I further tried to prevent over sharpening (to which Fuji X-Trans files do not agree too well). Below you can see 200% crops of results achieved with each RAW converter (arranged in order of my personal preference):

My Conclusions:

  1. Overall Capture One Pro 10 delivers IMO the most balanced result, with good contrast and sharpness in the background billboard text and not too aggressive rendering of the grass and the hedge. Capture One now automatically corrects distortion (often prevalent on zooms) by straightening & cropping. However, left at 100% this correction effectively reduces the FF equ. widest angle of view of the XF 18-135 from 27mm to 28.5mm. So I reduce the auto-correction to around 60% allowing me to retain around 28mm FF equ. max. field of view while still getting reasonably straight lines
  2. Photo Ninja brings out more contrast in the text but IMO renders the tree, grass and hedge too aggressively. The image also seems to be overlaid by a visible grain structure. Unfortunately Photo Ninja doesn't´t offer lens correction based on embedded EXIF data and delivers somewhat strange colours (for those into colour imaging)
  3. Lightroom CC delivers reasonable results, albeit with subdued sharpness in the text (with optimal settings for Fuji X-Trans) and a hint of detail smearing artefacts in the foliage
  4. Iridient  (my previous favourite, before trying the newest version of Capture One) disappointed me on this image: I couldn't get sufficient contrast in the text and finest details in that text do not seem to be resolved well enough (lines in the letters break up). Also here IMO too aggressive rendering of the grass & foliage
  5. Affinity Photo delivers a similar balanced result to Capture One but clearly lacks contrast, sharpness and detail rendering in the fine details of the background text
  6. The SOOC JPEG is IMO the least attractive of these (apart from being too dark). This confirms that JPEG´s, while being good enough for sharing images on social media / web are insufficient for big fine-art enlargements - see how the fine details in the text are lost ...

Another aspect to consider is that from my point of view only 2 solutions of the above offer a complete all-in-one image management / RAW development solution: Capture One Pro and Lightroom CC. The others are usually applied as external RAW converters integrated into a Lightroom workflow, requiring exporting and re-importing of images & more complicated handling

Even Capture One is currently my preferred image management solution it has one big deficiency: It is the only software of the above NOT able to handle compressed Fuji RAW´s. This means each RAW file blocks approx. 50mB of your disk space vs. the approx. 25mB per compressed RAW !

Ok, this will be my last post of this year. I sincerely hope you enjoyed visiting my blog during the past year & will continue to follow me thru 2017 ! As always please leave me any comments and/or questions you may have in the comments area, many thanks for your continued support & for your interest / contributions !

Wishing y´all a wonderful, successful, fun new year 2017 & the best of luck for all your (photographic ;-) endeavours, 

Yours, 

Hendrik
 

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance !

How to Get Best Image Quality Out of Fuji X-Trans III RAW´s

Hey I got something for those of youse who REALLY wanna get the very best possible image quality out of Fuji´s new X-Trans III image sensor (as currently used on Fuji´s X-Pro 2 and X-T2 mirrorless APS-C cameras). Yeah I know ... Said some posts ago that Lightroom´s all you´ll need ... Basically that still holds true but it all depends on what you expect from your photography, please read on to discover how:

Portrait of my lovely wife: Fuji X-Pro 2 with 35 mm f2 WR @f2.8 1/125 sec

Portraits seem to present quite a challenge regarding image quality (apart from the obvious challenge to capture the right facial expression reflecting persona & character of your model ;-) ! Working on a portrait series I discovered that different RAW developers produced subtle variations in the results. So I thought I´d share them here, starting off as baseline with Fuji´s very good SOOC JPEG rendering. This already delivers an overall pleasing result, however finest details are lost during in-camera conversion:

SOOC JPEG using Fuji X-Pro 2´s X-Trans III 24 mp sensor

Then I tried RAW conversion using Affinity Photo, a relatively new kid on the block (many thanks to The Lightweight Photographer for pointing me to it !). With this one I do get a very nice contrast, which I initially liked a lot (for me nearly the most pleasing off the bat). But on closer scrutiny I discovered it dissolves finer details even more than the JPEG and also produces some unwanted artefacts (see the line between the cornea and the lower eyelid):

RAW conversion using Affinity Photo

This is not the case with Adobe´s latest version of Lightroom CC. Better fine details than the JPEG´s and a fully integrated workflow to boot (no external RAW converter, so no additional exporting / importing needed). However ACR does seem to slightly exaggerate high contrast fine detail - the eyelashes seem to look a bit thicker / heavier than perceived (I learnt a lot from Thomas Fitzgerald´s excellent X-Trans guides & used one of his sharpening presets, they´re really good !). To further optimize this I may need to experiment a bit more in detail with the sharpening settings:

RAW conversion using Adobe Camera RAW in Lightroom CC

Last but not least the most balanced high quality result came out of Iridient Developer: Extremely fine details are retained and beautifully rendered (using default "Iridient Reveal" sharpening). No artefacts, no exaggeration, IMO the very best result I could achieve (with a reasonable effort - I really want to minimize the time spent in front of my Mac, of course ;-)

RAW conversion using Iridient Developer

Concluding I have to say that Fuji shooters have a lot of choices nowadays: Need a fast result w/o hassle ? You can use the SOOC JPEG´s without any problem, they´re amazing ! Want to go RAW for a really good result with an integrated workflow ? Lightroom CC ain´t gonna disappoint you ! But if you want the very best image quality & don't shy away from some extra workflow integration ? Use Lightroom CC for image management and Iridient for RAW conversion (it can be easily integrated into your workflow - excellent "how to" advice available here)

Hope y´all liked today´s post & could find some guidance & information for your own work ? If you´ve any questions, comments or ideas - please leave me a note in the comments section or on my "Contact" page ! Many thanks for reading, for your continued interest & support, and hope to see you here again soon !

Good luck & best regards,

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance !

Adobe´s got the best RAW converter for Fuji X-Trans now, or what ? Part 1

Recently I got this pop-up on my MAC informing on new Creative Cloud App updates, so I downloaded ´em & was looking at some high contrast images after import using Lightroom´s ACR (Adobe Camera RAW). Here FYI the JPEG SOOC, with totally jacked highlights & shadows:

Dogging the Fountain - Fuji X-Pro2, WR 35mm/f2, JPEG SOOC: Jacked highlights & shadows !

But when opening the RAW´s with ACR - what the ... ??? ;-) Hey, could it be that Adobe´s now finally gotten their Fuji X-Trans rendering act together ? Intrigued by this performance I decided to (again ... yawn ;-) compare Adobe´s Camera RAW (included in Lightroom & Photoshop CC) with the best external RAW converters out there (Iridient & Photo Ninja) - ya just gotta keep on your toes here ;-) please read on if interested !

I´ve been using Photo Mechanic for culling / key-wording & Lightroom for (mobile) image management / processing since way back, so obviously a built in RAW converter would have major advantages for my workflow compared to an external one (no more needing to export & copy back in, nor splitting image processing over 2 bits of software, etc.)

I´m posting this in 2 instalments: 1. Highlights & Shadows Performance (this post), and 2. Detail & Sharpening (coming up soon !)

Let´s start with Highlights & Shadows Performance. Although aesthetically the SOOC JPEG quite faithfully rendered what I´d originally visualised at time of capture the highlights & shadows are like totally blown out. So I was interested how much detail I could pull back into the image during post processing:

To do this I basically first maxed out the highlights recovery and then pushed the shadows by slightly increasing exposure until just before the highlights started blowing out again (thereby keeping an eye on not losing too much contrast). See below the comparison & results !

1. Adobe Camera RAW in Photoshop CC:

This one I liked the most:

Highlight & Shadows compression using Photoshop CC´s built in ACR RAW converter

Dunno why, but i seemed to get a slightly better rendering outta Photoshop´s built in version of ACR than LR´s (maybe the PS ACR interface is better, or I was too dumb or lazy to get 100% the same result with Lightroom´s built in ACR ...). Here a 100% crop view showing vastly improved shadows & highlights areas vs. the JPEG:

100% Crop of Photoshop´s ACR rendering

2. Adobe Canera RAW in Lightroom CC:

Nearly as good (yeah, right - both platforms use the same Adobe Camera RAW built in RAW converter):

Highlight & Shadows compression using Lightroom CC´s built in ACR RAW converter

Here a 100% crop view showing the improved shadows & highlights areas, with slightly less contrast in the shadows whereas highlights seem to have a bit more detail ...

100% Crop of Lightroom´s ACR rendering

3. Iridient Developer:

Iridient is amazing in its ability to bring out detail with a unique & careful sharpening of Fuji X-Pro2´s files, but I was quite shocked to see that its highlight & shadows detail recovery seems to be limited:

Highlight & Shadows compression using Iridient´s external RAW converter

Compared to ACR the highlight head room is quite limited, meaning I have less "foot" room available for pushing the shadows, before the highlights blow (compare the crack between the tiles on bottom right with the ACR versions):

100% Crop of Iridient´s rendering

4. Photo Ninja:

This one I liked the least - highlight head room seems a bit better than Iridient, but didn't matter what I did, i just couldn't manage to bring out more shadow detail (it always kinda remained a dark soup). Also Photo Ninja does not react on EXIF lens correction parameters, you get the total image (see the additional details at the image borders), but the image is still distorted:

Highlight & Shadows compression using Photo Ninja´s external RAW converter

And here the details - highlights OK´ish but the black dog just remains a black silhouette:

100% Crop of Photo Ninja´s rendering

Sorry, did´t have no more access to Capture One & never used Raw Therapee so those two are not covered here ...

Interim Conclusion: Adobe´s ACR wins the dynamic range battle !
(please also check out part 2 soon for details & sharpness comparison and for the final conclusion)

From a highlights & shadows recovery point of view the benefit of not needing to use external RAW converters seems to be an achievable target, Adobe´s ACR is doing an excellent job here ! OK I´d not push it that far for a fine art print to preserve the visual impression of the original situation, but good to know there is room for manoeuvring !

I hope this was an interesting read for all you Fuji fans out there - please leave me a comment in case you´ve any questions and/or suggestions ! Many thanks for looking by & wish y´all good light !

Best regards

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance !

Going "light" - Mobile Post Processing without PC!

So, that's it. Finally I dunnit - switched my online workflow fully to mobile, meaning: Using Fuji JPEG's, RAW developed in camera & post processed only on my iPad before uploading to my blog / social media! No more PC? Well, not quite - for those of you interested, please read on ...

Rainin' up?

I always capture RAW+JPEG(F)'s. This way I have the best possible sensor output (14 bit RAW) of my Fuji X100T for later making large prints (normally up to A1), using PhotoNinja RAW conversion & Lightroom on my PC. But believe you me, the workflow for getting fine art quality prints of that size off an APS/C format sensor takes a LOT of effort, is very time consuming and very expensive to boot!

On the other hand sharing images on the web luckily don't require such stunts ... The "light", On-the-Go workflow shared here - based on using the amazing 8-bit Fuji JPEG's has proven to be more than enough for web use IMO - please take a look for yourselves:

No guests? Deserted bar in Sardegna

I already previously shared "prototypes" of this mobile workflow on my blog, but needed to further refine some steps / choice of tools to make it more fluid & efficient, here the final 6-step workflow:

  1. Capture - Fuji X100T set to RAW+JPEG(F); B(R) film sim; sharpening +1; hi-light & shadow +1; NR -1; DR, WB, ISO on auto (ISO base 200, max 1600, min SS 1/80). Configured like this the X100T acts like a "monochrome" camera with preview & review of images in contrasty B&W!
  2. After the shoot, I check the images in camera & delete those which are unsharp / poorly exposed (washed out hi-lights) and/or have unsatisfactory content (this helps reduce the amount of "waste" on storage media & in my archive)
  3. In camera RAW conversion of "keepers" to flat "digital color negatives", with following settings: CC film sim; color +1; hi-light & shadow -1
  4. Download these "color negatives" to my iPad via WiFi, using Shuttersnitch App (which automatically updates IPTC metadata with copyright & usage rights, etc.)
  5. Process on iPad into final B&W images using Photogene4 App. I did previously use Pixelmator but found the processing options in Photogene4 to be more useful (eg. hi-light & shadow recovery) and the its user interface more fluid. Only disadvantage of Photogene4 is that the healing tool can only do spot healing (instead of Pixelmator allowing me to paint over areas, but that I don't need so much anyway)
  6. Finally I add my copyright text to the image, resize to 1500 pix web dimension, save to output folder and upload to my blog / social media - DONE!

Here another example - even in 8-hit the dynamic range of Fuji's JPEG's is impressive:

Two chairs four two?

Well, I hope this was helpful for some of you? Doing PP on iPad during traveling has seriously reduced the amount of time I needed to spend staring into a PC screen at home - Now I got much more time for taking photos (or for relaxing with a glass of fine Italian prosecco ;-)

Thanks for reading, please let me know what you think (comment below or send me email)!

Best regards,

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance !

Go Light: Just JPEG & iPad - is it enough ?

Hey, the JPEG's coming out of my Fuji X100T are really amazing ! So much that I looked for a "light" image processing solution for "On-the-Go" & found a great full featured photo editor for iPad called Pixelmator. See below example image of the famous Roman aqueduct in Segovia, Spain:

Roman Aqueduct in Segovia, Spain

For this I developed following simple "On-the-Go" imaging workflow which I'd like to share with y'all:

  1. Set up my Fuji X100T to take rather neutral / flat color images (kinda digital "negative" with maximum dynamic range, if you like):
    • Classic Chrome
    • Hi-light -1
    • Shadow -1
    • Color +1
    • NR -1
    • Sharpen +1
    • JPEG+RAW (to still have a RAW backup ! ;-)
  2. Import images to iPad using Fuji's Wifi connection App or Apple's lightning to
    SD card connection kit
  3. Use "Pixelmator" App to optimize image (exposure, contrast, levels, color, etc). If you prefer Black & White you can use the color sliders to influence the grey tones !
  4. Upload finished images to my site

The advantage of this approach is that you can process & upload your images while travelling, just using an iPad w/o any compromise on image quality (at least for web applications) and you still have the back-up original RAW files to make fine art prints !

Hope you liked it ! Curious about your comments, many thanks in advance for looking & wish y'all a great weekend !

Best regards, 

Hendrik

I hope you enjoyed reading this post - If you like you can support me by sending me a small donation via PayPal.me/hendriximages ! Helps me run this site & keeps the information coming, many thanks in advance !