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Tuesday, 14 April 2020

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I'm actually quite happy with ACR and Lightroom for processing Fuji raw files from my X-E2S.

It seems to me that as you “can see what you're doing much better on the larger display of your computer“, a good use would be to find out more easily what in-camera settings you like for a jpeg output when you don’t want or can’t use raw files.

Wow, such a lot of effort. I'm sure glad I decided to go with a Nikon DSLR. My RAW files out of the camera get opened by Nikon's free Capture NX-D software (at which point they look just like what was seen on the camera's rear LCD screen) and immediately exported as 16-bit TIFFs.

It's then easy to process those TIFF files as desired using the editing program of one's choice. Seeking full 16-bit capability for smooth black and white prints, I went with Serif's PhotoPlus X8 years ago, before Affinity Photo was introduced, and have found no reason to change. All manner of manipulations are readily achieved in this workflow.

As a complete neophyte (after 50 or so years of pushing the shutter button) I remain convinced of my inherent talent and acumen in having (1) accidentally settled on Fuji in early 2015 (and remaining entranced), and (2) having stumbled onto TOP a bit later (and remaining entranced).

Actually it was my Panasonic GX8 that pushed me to move from Lightroom to Capture One a while ago ...
Wide areas without texture at high iso (e.g. late evening sky) show a large scale moiré or Newton's rings pattern in Lightroom, but not in Capture One (didn't do a comprehensive test with other developers). I guess somehow LR's demosaicing algorithm clashes with the GX8's noise pattern.

Wow. That was just exhausting. Like going on a quest to look for problems that might or might not have solutions. I used multiple Fuji cameras over a year and a half time frame and used Adobe Lightroom or Adobe Photoshop exclusively to process raw files. Both work fine. The latest update of ACR is just fine for all of Fuji's raw files. You just have to make profiles that you like in the program for the cameras. And there are a million tutorials about how to do that. A bit of elbow grease. A bit of trial and error. That's really all it take to make those raw converters work well.

It's like losing weight. Some people look to diet as the magic bullet but really it's equally a matter of pounding out the miles and getting in the exercise. There's no "free lunch."

If you like the look for Capture One files learn how to goose the blue saturation slider in the HSL menu and then learn how to sharpen the crap out of the smallest details. You'll be right in the ballpark....

50,000 files in on Fuji. Just sayin'

Maybe people use Fuji's film simulations and tweak them further by adjusting contrast/saturations/curves and saving the tweaked simulation as a custom setting in the camera.

X Raw Studio is fantastic for creating those customized simulations just because it can be done on the big screen.

With the X-Pro2, I always shoot JPEG+RAW, the JPEG set to medium or small file sizes. All my photographs are in B&W, and the colour RAW file is just an intermediary. The JPEGs are set as "Acros" and that is also what I see in the EVF (if I don't use the OVF). The JPEGs are purely for bookkeeping, and occasionaly for immediate sending off if I want to share.

The real output always comes from the RAW file, which I process in Capture One, where my starting point is the neutral colour file that comes from choosing the "linear response" option for the initial curve.

The Acros JPEGs are lovely, and it is true, they are hard to replicate from the RAWs. But then I don't want to replicate them; I have my own set of simple preset curves and settings that do what I want to do, in a standardised fashion, with minimal fine-tuning required.

When shooting, I expose with my eye on the final RAW processing, not the JPEGs. A bit like shooting with the old "positive-negative" B&W Polaroid film, Type 55. There you exposed for the negative and got a slightly over-exposed Polaroid print, as a bonus. That print now is the JPEG.

For me, all of this works beautifully. But then I have always liked to think of the restrictions of a given film as a welcome reduction of complexity, not a limitation that I need to overcome.

More knowledgeable people than me have made the case for a straight conversion of the camera's file format (e.g., dcraw -4) to some lossless format like TIFF, then working on the file in Photoshop. The idea is that the initial conversion does nothing: no sharpening, no setting of white and black points. You get everything the camera recorded into Photoshop and then you have Photoshop's huge array of tools to work with.

I think I've tried this a grand total of ... once.

Chasing after the last iota of image quality (however you define that) seems less important than the overall conception of the photo. Going back to a previous subject, is the utmost pixel clarity of your black and white conversion more important than the choice of "crunchy shadows" vs. broad expansive midtones?

If you buy that, then the comfort and convenience of the digital editing software you select matter more than the image quality differences, which are probably slight in any case.

Re Fuji RAW Studio, the word that comes to mind when reading your description of it is Kluge . Seems like an awkward way to do something that ought to e simple.
I have lot of respect for Fujifilm as a company, but think the whole X-Trans sensor was an effort to be different rather than better. Like Sony's 'Memory Stick' when we already had established standards for card storage. Both Memory Stick & X-Trans were different for the sake of being proprietary not because they offered any real advantage.
The customer gets nothing out of it but lack of compatibility withe existing methods of work.
Fujifilm could have made beautiful film simulations from a Beyer sensor--which they do in the GFX and the original x100.
It is not that Memory Stick and X-Trans don't work ok, they do but at a cost of convenience and flexibility for the customer.
So I have not supported them by buying their cameras, although the GFX 100 looks interesting, and has a Beyer sensor.

I stumbled into photography when I had to learn to use a dslr as an ancillary skill set during a professional retraining program.

That was about ten years ago. I haven't been able to shake the fundamental process that I was taught back then which I can summarize as "Shoot in raw. Always shoot in raw. Never shoot in jpg. Jpgs are garbage."

And yet, I bought an X-Pro 2 a few months after they went on sale because I was hoping to simplify my workflow and shoot all or mostly jpgs. That didn't work out. But the X-Pro 2 has been my main camera to this day.

I'd love to shoot jpgs 100% of the time. I'd be happier if I could shoot 16 bit tiffs. I understand that the medium format Fujis can save as tiffs and maybe the X-Pro 3 and X-T4 can? The X-Pro 2 cannot. Only cameras that can natively make tiffs can output tiffs from X-Raw Studio.

I work in print and I know that jpgs are good enough most of the time but I also know that if you have a good enough printer and you know what you are doing you can really wrest a lot of additional print quality out of a 16 bit tiff.

I guess I'm just saying that I empathize with you Mike. The Fuji world is great but it's also idiosyncratic and seems to lack tools that the workflow Fuji seems to want you to use require.

I've been using Silkypix DS Pro for a few years because it's always been quite good with Fuji files. Version 10, which came out very recently, is very good. I am able to get very, very, close to the look of the in camera jpgs from my X-Pro 2 using it.

If you work out a stream-lined and relatively simple Fuji jpg workflow I'd love to read about it.

My 2 cents: I like the output from Capture One (20) with my XT-30. To me, it just sits right. I like the UI of Capture One the most. I don't have to fight with it. On the other hand, DXO can work magic with my Leica M9 but I like the UI of DXO the least.

I wish I could settle on one app. I use Lightroom as my DAM, so I hop between 2-3 sometimes 4 applications to manage and edit photos (not to mention scanner software and a film-specific workflow). It was even worse when I had a Sigma Foveon camera in the mix.

Whoa there; I used VC papers most of my darkroom career (at least some), but I never had any dials to turn! I know that, if you were well-financed enough, you could get special enlarger heads with dichroic filters for the contrast levels, but I never in my entire career actually saw one of them. I saw vastly more full-color setups with such filters (and yeah, I know you could at least approximate the VC filters with the color filters, and some people did that).

I like that "find you mechanic". :-)

Learning post processing tools takes time, skill and dedication. It's a choice for a long term investment. Decades. The only game in town that has shown real staying power for RAW conversion that is worth investing you time in is ACR/Lightroom or Capture One. They have been around for a long time.

Then picking a camera system that works well for those tools over decades with most models, and you have Nikon or Canon to choose from. Then pick the lenses you want and learn them, that knowledge will last for decades as well. Camera bodies will come and go, but as long as you have lenses you know, and post processing tools you know and works great with you camera, the camera bodies is not important.

This recurring theme, harking back to the recent "photographer vs hobbyist" approaches to tools and workflows, is resonating with me. It's very easy for me to get lost in process minutiae (not always a bad thing in the long run, but often detrimental to getting things done), so I appreciate Fuji's approach of taking care of most conversion details and leaving me with fewer and arguably more important decisions. (I say this having had far more experience with "standard" RAW workflows.)

Relatedly, if reviewers ideally ought to review software (or hardware) in the context of workflows, shouldn't that also be the way practical photography is taught? More specifically, isn't choosing among and optimizing workflows a fundamental skill of photography (or any craft)?

I don't know. Maybe it's right to master one workflow first, and to learn the "standard" first, but maybe it would be better to approach workflow as options, or in the context of workflow itself being an instrumental choice--maybe even the most profound and personal choice to be made?

I am fascinated by your exclusion of using Capture One for your Fuji cameras. Over the last year, Fujifilm and Capture One have been collaborating to the extent that Capture One - Fuji edition is available for use for Fuji users.

Even a few years ago, Capture One was touted as being one of, if not the, best X-Trans RAW processors around. They are not tied to the monolithic ACR model. Each brand has its own settings for de-mosaicking and profiling. Adobe has had a bad reputation among Fuji users, according to the stuff I have perused over the years. Why the obsession with Adobe? They are not the only people on the block.

Note: I do not use Fujifilm cameras nor do I use Adobe products. Yes, I do use Capture One Pro and for pixel level processing I can use Affinity Photo. I do have LR, but it is v6.14 and at this stage it is limited in its capability.

This is an unfair question for you, but since Fuji has no raw editor software to sell, why not make their X sensor decoding algorithms available to the various editor software vendors? They wouldn't losing anything.

Or am I misunderstanding? The impression I get is that their X Raw Studio spits out jpgs, not 16 bit tiffs or anything else that would permit further editing with a pixel editor. Have I got that wrong?

Mike, I am sorry but I feel like I am commenting too much, but I have to say that I use Fuji a lot, and really like the CC Classic Lightroom. Now to be fair I usually shoot raw and color. I love color and not black and white. I generally don't open the images in PS unless I have something specific to accomplish. One thing that impresses me about CC Lightroom is the ability to take images shot 10 years ago, and rework them with the new capabilities in Lightroom 2020. As I mentioned I have been doing photo books during this lockdown, and many of the images are over 10 years old and they come out really nice with LR. I do enjoy your posts on Fuji it is a great system. Stay well Eric

[Your comments are always welcome Eric, however many you feel moved to write. Thanks! --Mike]

As someone mentioned, even if you don't see X-RAW as the convertor of your choice think of it as a far far better way to evaluate all that the JPG settings can do without squinting at an EVF or rear display. What you learn you can apply to teh in camera setting and make the JPGs even more of what you desire. Whether or not you use the RAW later X-RAW is a great teaching tool. I've learned from it quite a bit and I'm not new to the Fuji menus.

The benefit of RAW Studio is that it will allow you to change your mind about which film simulation you want, after you have taken the picture. Started off with Acros and want to see it in Velvia?

I appreciate this topic. I have used Nikon DSLR's since 2009 (D40) and currently still use Nikon (D7500 and D750). I currently use DxO PhotoLab3 (and have used DxO for many iterations of their software over many years), and I'm of a mind it works well with Nikon. The camera/lens modules/corrections work very well, at least in my opinion. And the RAW conversion (to my eyes) always has the edge over the JPEG out of the camera.

The other thing about shooting RAW, for me anyway, is that it makes using the camera easier and more fun. I don't have to worry about all the JPEG settings (WB, Picture Controls, Active D-Lighting, Noise Reduction, etc, etc) and can instead focus on exposure and composition, it's kind of liberating and more like using a film camera.

I suppose I could use the Nikon software, but I find it clunky. Also, I've spent untold hours with DxO and I think once you have mastered, or at least gotten up a learning curve on a program it's worth sticking with it, which I imagine is how your feel about ACR and Photoshop.

When Fuji's X Raw Studio was announced I thought it seemed neat. And it is neat. But it's also frustratingly limited, so I haven't used it all that much. The in-camera controls are fairly basic, and so don't constitute a serious photo editing piece of software. One common adjustment is to adjust white balance, and I found that to be a struggle. But the real deal-breaker is that one can only output a JPG (unless you have a GFX). A JPG might be fine for some purposes, but for serious editing I want a 16-bit TIFF. And of course you can only use it on an image while you still have that model camera.

I don't have a problem with all the Fuji posts. It makes up for the dearth of them by Thom, the other main source of independent analysis and opinion.

You recently shared John Willards comment "the enemy of good is better". That is the centre (Australian spelling, sorry) point where making photographs with a film camera, and using a recent Fuji digital camera intersect.

If your intended audience is yourself and those erudite ragtag folk who read your blog, then good enough is good enough. You'll surely experience freedom if you let go of the desire to tweak (which narrows your vision) and broaden your outlook to envelop the joy of the act of making photographs.

"Apologies to Moose, who dislikes all the posts here about Fuji."

Not All the Fuji posts.

". . . so hang in there, Moose."

Today, you gave me something to chew on. Your 100% sample shows quite a bit of noise, for ISO 400.


An application of Topaz Denoise AI can remove the noise.

[But I love the noise! One of the nice things about digital cameras. I didn't like noise back when it was NOISE, but nowadays it's beautiful. The GX8's noise structure, for example, was one of the good things about it. --Mike]

I guess you're still a young dog, Mike... I like the idea but I'm not convinced that your mechanic analogy holds for software, which simply changes too often for no discernible reason other than planned obsolence anyway.

The hierarchy of profits for camera manufacturers:
Lenses
Bodies
Firmware
Software

The hierarchy of needs for photographers, based on time spent fiddling around:
Software
Bodies
Firmware
Lenses

I just made all of the above up. :-)

Lumariver Profile Designer gives an insane amount of control over color and tonality of RAW files. It requires a DNG image of a color chart to use. It outputs DNG profiles that can be used in Adobe products, or ICC profiles that can be used in most other software, such as Capture One. It is not easy to use. There are a gazillion settings to master, but I don’t think there is any other package that can match what it does. You can change color and tonality settings that aren’t even available in most editing software.

Once you have made the profiles, Lumariver is not needed for editing. You just select the profile from inside your editing software of choice.

I'll use Raw Studio when I have a series of photos I know I'll like better as JPEGs but want to adjust only the white balance or something. But because it's an extra step, it's only for special occasions.

I had been using the last standalone version of Lightroom for years and finally, back in December, made the decision to move to Capture One. Mostly the move was motivated by not getting sucked into yet another monthly subscription, but when I forced myself to learn more about the program, I was shocked with how much better many of my raw files looked (mostly low light, worm-prone images).

I was also excited that they have excellent Fuji film simulations, but what I wasn't prepared for was that they only support third-generation X-Trans sensors and newer for those simulations. So, my X-E3 was good to go, but my go-everywhere camera, my X70, was not. So now, if I don't use the JPEG, I'm out of luck with matching the look of my X-E3. It's been a long time since Fuji started supporting film simulations in Capture One, and it looks as though they aren't going to go backwards. Oh, the same goes for Raw Studio as well; only third-generation X-Trans sensors and newer.

So even though I'm enjoying my new setup and have really taken to Capture One, I've got this little thorn in my side with not being able to fit my X70 into my preferred workflow.

This is a very interesting topic, and I suspect it will only be more germane in the future.

So many different approaches to processing!

For me, every shot requires its own individual processing. Every shot is cropped differently, every one needs different exposure and color and contrast.

It makes no sense to me to stick with one particular format, 3x4 or square, or whatever, or any particular "film-like" recipe for color and contrast. Those self-imposed "rules" seem silly and self-defeating.

I think Mr Tuck has the right idea: ACR and C1 work fine, but may require different tweaking with Fuji files.

Perhaps worth a note that, because of the need for speed when producing JPEG files in the camera while, for instance, shooting at 10 frames per second or faster, necessity dictates that the in-camera converter's software is usually quite abbreviated.

Therefore, PC based processors can take a more rigourous approach to how the image-manipulation tools work, for example multi-pass processes, and can be expected to generate more refined results. As a general rule.

cheers

The fact that X Raw Studio can only be used on a file created by that camera indicates to me that Fuji has worked out corrections for that sensor's quirks and limitations.

With Lightroom I can go back and reprocess files from the distant past (and usually improve on my earlier work).

So, I understand that demosaicing an X-Trans file has specific problems (or advantages). But after that, are there other issues that would prevent LR or C1 from working well?

The story about choosing a car based on a mechanic reminds me of a local VCR repairman.

My VCR broke. He said "it's not worth fixing".

I asked what kind VCR he recommended. He said "they all suck".

He eventually allowed that Panasonic VCRs sucked less, so that's what we bought.

[But I love the noise!

From the Tina Manley school, eh?

One of the nice things about digital cameras. I didn't like noise back when it was NOISE, but nowadays it's beautiful.

I have no idea what you are talking about. NOISE vs noise causes cognitive dissonance in my head. Are the caps to indicate noise that is louder? The hearing in my right ear is going, so perhaps louder would help?

Noise is an artifact of the capture medium and processing (or film and development.) It is not a feature of the subject. It is thus, to me, no more nor less pretension than the unnatural B&W processing you were recently dissing and the extreme color processing I see everywhere.

À chacun son goût!

[I think you do know what I mean. Matter of degree. In the old days shadow noise could be blotches of random spurious colors and parquet patterns and coarse pixelation that could be visible at normal sizes and in prints, and it could show up at low-ish ISOs. Today noise is typically a very fine grainlike pattern visible only at high magnifications and mostly not visible at all in normal size prints and generally only appearing at higher ISOs. Very different kettles o' fish. --Mike]

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