I thought that getting an X-E3 was gonna give me X100F kinda compactness (both have similar size) & performance (both have the same stellar X-Trans III sensor), with the added possibility to change lenses! But after some testing I discover that the X-E3 seems to have pretty aggressive in-camera JPEG processing! WTF? … For a “fine-art junkie” like me the resulting JPEG's are unusable! So, if you’re a JPEG guy, who loves to print big, save yo'self some trouble & money by not buying an X-E3 for the wrong reasons: Take a look at the red arrows in the image below and please read on … scary!
Now why would someone want to use JPEG's for fine art? Simple reason is ACROS! This Fuji JPEG film simulation incudes a tonality dependent grain enhancement (see here, here and here) which creates ab-so-lutely gorgeous black and white PIECES-of-ART with subtle film-like grain (provided you don't just photograph brick walls, and even then those will look amazing too ... ;-) FYI y’all gonna miss out on this grain enhancement if you try to replicate ACROS via presets after conversion in Lightroom or other RAW converters. Large enlargements off original Fuji JPEG's taken with ACROS look amazing & like no other digital file! ACROS is one of the main reasons I'm stuck on Fuji!
So, back to the topic: As mentioned above, after looking thru images taken with my X100F and my meanwhile sold X-Pro2 & X-T2 it became clear that the in-camera JPEG sharpening of the X-E3’s way more aggressive than on Fuji´s Pro-line cameras. However, to be fair, if you mainly work with RAW files and/or use JPEG’s only for online sharing you’ll probably never even notice anything & you’ll enjoy your X-E3 as a fast, light & compact camera with excellent output. After all these artifacts only become visible in JPEG’s in further distant, small details (especially if they’re against uniform darker backgrounds …)
But if you’re a real ACROS aficionado and you love creating large blow-ups of your JPEG’s? You. Will. Notice. I do print BIG from JPEG’s and so I do see those ugly artifacts. Hell, even dialing down the JPEG sharpening to -4 ("softest") didn't fully get rid of them (and then the whole image looks kinda mushy now), see below ...
The reason for all this is that many camera manufacturers tend to apply stronger JPEG sharping on their consumer level products compared to the algorithms on their pro models. This makes sense given that casual photographers (the main target group for consumer grade cameras) usually only post their images on social media & usually don’t aspire to print large images. And they want their pics to look tack sharp right off the bat, with minimal effort (i.e. with no or minimal post processing)
Long story short, the aggressive JPEG sharpening of the X-E3 renders it useless for my workflow and so I’ve decided to trade it in for an X-H1, which (acc. my trusted Fuji dealer) is supposed to be less aggressive. Some people over at DPR also seem to agree. Luckily they were right, coz the X-H1 does cost more than twice as much than the X-E3 and is also a fair bit larger / heavier too. Ok, to be fair it’s also playing in a different league, with IBIS (In Body Image Stabilization), a much larger & more beautiful EVF, tilt LCD screen, … etc. Anyway, y’all can probably understand my relief when I checked out the first test images taken with my X-H1 and wasn’t finding any weird artifacts (see below & compare to the pictures above):
Just out of interest I also compared the Fuji X-E3 (with XF 35mm f/1.4R) to my Nikon D850 (with AF-S 58mm f/1.4G. Again, on the X-E3 image you can clearly see the JPEG sharpening artifacts (look at the people’s faces and the wrought iron grating at the windows). The D850 image is much clearer (Ok it has also nearly twice the resolution ;-) but more important you don’t see any sharpening artifacts (see face on bottom left corner):
Ok, I concede these images ain’t gonna win no laurels for artful content, but they’ve served me quite well to compare various pieces of kit and decide which camera is the best for me: The X-H1 it is! So on that note I’d like to share my usual daylight settings for the X-Trans III sensor on my X-H1 (of course these settings influence only the JPEG’s and are sometimes tweaked depending on image content):
ACROS-R film simulation
Auto ISO limited to 800 max. (thanks to IBIS ;-)
Auto White Balance & Dynamic Range
Grain Off (ACROS has already a tonality dependent grain feature)
Noise Reduction -2 or -3
Hi-light Tone 0
Shadow Tone +3
Sharpening 0 or +1
This gives me punchy JPEG’s w/o visible sharpening artifacts!
I hope you enjoyed this post and would be happy if I was able to give some of youse some advice on which camera to go for in case you love Fuji’s ACROS JPEG’s and enjoy enlarging your images!
Summarizing I am very satisfied with the X-H1’s performance, the JPEG’s are amazing and the slight weight / size disadvantage vs. the X-E3 is more than compensated by having image stabilization, a flippy screen, better, more ergonomic grip and a fantastic EVF!
If you have any questions or comments, please share in the comment section below and I’ll answer you ASAP.
Many thanks & best wishes for 2019,
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!