Friday, March 28, 2014

Some Thoughts on the X-T1 and Raw Processing

Hanuted House
FujiFilm X-T1, 18-55mm lens 1/320th @ f/8, ISO 200; 42.5mm
Converted to black and white in NIK/Google Silver Effects Pro 2 with some additional tweaking in Lightroom 5

After my series of posts on my experience with the FujiFilm X-T1, as well as getting many comments about the camera and raw processing of its files, I thought I would convey some additional thoughts I have about the camera, lenses, processing and the resultant images.

First, I think the Fujifilm X-T1, as well as the lenses I purchased, were terrific.  I have nothing negative to say about them.  The camera is well designed, speaks quality, handles really well, has the controls just where I like them and the menu system is easy and simple to use and understand.  The feature set on this camera is well developed and it is not overloaded with extraneous features that almost no one uses.  The camera's weight, size and price are just where they should be for a professional level photographic instrument such as this.  Additionally, Fujifilm must have had real, practicing photographers on board advising their design team as this camera, in my opinion, is a real "shooters" camera.  I really like this camera.

The X-T1 has a wonderful EVF.  I don't know of a better one.  It is bright, clear, contrasty with good color.  The EVF reflects your exposure.  It gets brighter when increasing exposure and darker when reducing exposure.  That is really handy to judge image tonality before pushing the shutter button.  The camera allows you to put a lot of icons and information right into the EVF.  I like having my live histogram in the EVF as I use that for my lightmeter to guide my exposure extremes (potential lost shadows or blown highlights).  Additionally, the focus is fast.  Not the fastest in the world, in my opinion, but plenty fast for all but a few who may need the fastest focusing for sports, etc.  I was able to successfully track several trains moving toward me at 79 mph with no problem.  I think Fujifilm has made a huge leap in focus tracking.  I have no complaints at all with the quality or quickness of focusing with the X-T1.

As for the lenses, I purchased four of them.  The 18-55mm kit lens is terrific.  It is sharp, contrasty, well made and small.  It is much smaller than the typical APS-C sensor camera's kit lens and it is faster.  Faster in the way of maximum aperture.  Nice all around, "go-to" lens.  I can say exactly the same about the 55-200mm lens.  Faster than most, smaller than most, sharper than most and well built.  The 23mm F/1.4 is a joy to use.  It is a perfect "walk-around" lens for street or general purpose photography.  Finally, the 60mm macro.  It doesn't focus really fast, but it is a very good lens for close up photography.  It is capable of excellent images. In fact, you won't be disappointed in the quality of the images produced by any of these lenses.

Here is the tricky part; Image quality and raw processing.  I receive a lot of feedback on my comments on what I saw in my images.  I will try to summarize what the commenters had to say.

First, on everything but subjects involving green foliage, the image quality was superb!  No complaints, with one exception.  Good color, highly detailed, good contrast, etc.  But in foliage, I saw mush in the greens.  About half of the comments spoke to using other raw converters and half said that is why they were staying away from the FujiFilm X-Trans cameras—for now.  Others, evidently, are seeing what I saw.  For a while, I thought there was something wrong with my eyes or judgment!  The one exception to my statement above is that some of my images of scenes, which were not green foliage, detail appeared to be excessively smoothed.  The analogy I would use is too much noise reduction applied, if you know the look.  The detail was there, but the image looked artificial.  I hope that explains it well.  This did not appear in all non-green foliage images, so I'm not sure about what caused it.

From the feedback I received as well as what I have read independently, mushy, watercolor looking foliage with little detail is indicative of how Adobe, in ACR and Lightroom, have set their algorithms to demosaic the raw files.  However, and this is a big however, many of you indicated that other raw processing programs do a great job with not only the X-T1 files, but all the FujiFilm X-Trans files.  I don't have any other processor, so I will take your word for it.  My conclusion from the comments is that just about every other raw converter is better than Adobe's efforts.  I'll take your word for that.  You seem to be adamant about that.

Here are the other raw converters mentioned:

Photo Ninja
Capture One Pro

I think those were all that were mentioned.  If there are others, let me know, I'll add them to this post in an update.

A couple of commenters asked, rhetorically of me I presume, why wasn't Adobe able to bring out the detail when other, smaller companies were able to pull the detail and sharpness right out of the green foliage?  I don't know, but before I purchased the X-T1, I had read extensively on this very raw processing issue and saw some results from Photo Ninja in some conversion examples.  One thing that I noticed was that Photo Ninja's algorithm brought out detail but also brought out a lot of digital noise.  That doesn't bother me.  I want the detail.  I'll deal with the noise as I see fit.  I'll assume, as a rhetorical answer, that there are many trade-offs that have to be considered when demosaicing raw files and each manufacturer decides how it will handle it.  Just a presumption on my part, but it sounds logical.

Additionally, in my research, I found out that many manufacturers, along with some raw converter developers (I'm not entirely sure which or both is responsible for these), build into their raw files' conversion process, file compression, lens distortion and aberration corrections, noise reduction, and vignetting (shading) fixes.  Those corrections are built-in in a way that you, as the consumer cannot turn them off.  They have already decided for you what is best for you.  Now, I'll tell you, I don't like that at all.  Just give me the raw data and let me decide, for each individual image, what corrections I want to make and how strong I want each correction to be.  I didn't bargain for some developer across the other side of the country or world, to make those decisions for me.

Here is a question that I will ask of all of you.  Should we, as consumers, photographers and enthusiasts, have to spend time and money hunting for software that will provide us with the best results from our digital image files or should we, as a community, expect that manufacturers will get it right (both gear and software manufacturers) before marketing their products to the general public?  Let me expand upon this.  Each time we buy a new camera, from whatever manufacturer, should we have to get copies of Aperture, Lightroom, Photoshop, Photo Ninja, DCRAW, Capture One Pro, Iridient, DXO, and who knows what other programs that are out there, test each program with our new camera to see which program fully and best exploits the capabilities of our image files?  Is that asking too much of the photographic community?  Shouldn't  all of them work sufficiently to bring out the best of our digital image files with our new camera?

If we were to buy an automobile or motorcycle, should we have to drive to several different branded service stations to find a gasoline that works satisfactorily with our new vehicle?  Or should every gasoline work just fine?  If we buy a music CD or a movie on DVD, should we have to go out and buy several different players just to find the one or ones which bring out the full fidelity of our music or movie?  If one were to buy a new flashlight (torch), should we have to go out and buy several different brands of batteries to find one brand that makes the flashlight work as it should?  You should be getting the point by now.  All gasoline, all CDs or DVDs, and all batteries should work seamlessly with all the products for which they are intended.  We shouldn't have to seek out certain brands just to have what we bought work properly.  Whose fault is it if they don't?  You decide.  I just think they should.  Yes, I know it is the real world, but they should.

I can understand some raw converter software working better than others.  But, I would assume that we should expect all converters to be satisfactory in doing the job of file conversion, as we are the ones who spent money to buy the software, and paid for that specific capability.  Experimentation has always been a big part of my photography and I enjoy it.  But one should not have to be forced to experiment if one doesn't want to experiment.

For now, I have ended my foray into Fujifilm land.  Not due to any deficiency in the gear.  I was perfectly happy with first, my Olympus E-M5 and now my E-M1 and the M4/3 format.  What's not to like?  I bought the X-T1 based more upon emotion, curiosity and experimentation rather than need.  Does the E-M1 have some drawbacks?  Yes, but no more than any other specific camera.  Does the M4/3 format have some drawbacks?  Yes, but it is not image quality, I can attest to that.  Specifically, I don't really care for the 3:4 image ratio.  But, I can live with it.  Also, I still have a D800E and a bagful of lenses that I use when appropriate.  Does the D800E have drawbacks?  Yes, in that I don't need 36mp most of the time, but I deal with extra storage space I need.  The future?  I'm sure I will be back in the land of Fujifilm and once again enjoying using a fine photographic instrument.  As I said, I really like shooting with this camera system.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy!

Dennis Mook

Many of my images can be found at  Please pay it a visit.  I add new images regularly.  Thank you.

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  1. Hi Dennis, I've been enjoying all of your posts about the X-trans RAW "problems". Just curious... does the mushy green foliage show up in the OOC jpegs? If so, one (i.e. "I") could perhaps shoot JPEG+RAW, then use the JPEGs currently and save the RAW for the future when presumably Adobe will work this all out. [I'm currently using the lowly non-Trans X-A1]

  2. Peter, thank you for the comment. Indeed, I have been using RAW + JPEG for all the images out of the X-T1 for the very reasons you stated.

    Just now, I went back into my image files to check on differences between RAW and JPEG so I could answer your question. I pulled up both versions in Photoshop and layered them, RAW being on top, JPEG on bottom. Toggling the top layer on and off, there are differences, but not much since I had left the JPEG sharpening, contrast and saturation at zero. The JPEG files were a little more saturated and a little bit sharpened while the RAW files were more neutral and less sharpened.

    But, I noticed something I didn't notice before. This particular image was of the top of a pine tree. One with long needles. I think it may be a Southern Yellow Pine. In both images, in what should be just blue sky between the very ends of the branches, there is a "non-distinct" area of the image which is a) very much lighter blue than the surrounding sky and, b) filled with what looks like it could be some sort of fuzzy detail, although no detail is really there. There should only be blue sky there and it should be the same color blue as it is just a few inches away. It appears on both RAW and JPEG. It appears to me that the image processing, in both JPEG and RAW are adding something in a very non-distinct way. In this particular image it is to an area between the very ends of pine branches at the very top of the tree, that in reality, should only be blue sky. Nothing else should be there. I'm not sure what is going on with this.

    Additionally, I'm going to quit using the term "mushy" to describe what I am seeing and maybe better describe it as lacking of detail that most certainly is there in reality. For example, blades of grass that are individual, but aren't rendered as individual in the image. Mushy is too subjective and insufficiently explanatory.

    1. Thank you for your good and thorough reply. I think it was with Panasonic files that I saw the same thing in the RAW (the treatment of blue near the horizon and near other objects) while the OOC jpeg did a nice job with it. (I used LR)

      I have read enough similar observations to yours to feel real frustration with a camera system that otherwise has so much going for it. In the meantime I can't find any fault with the Oly EM1, but I am not one to stop with just one system!

  3. I totally agree.

    I would get one step further, camera manufacturers shouldn't use proprietary raw formats. Some like Leica, Ricoh, Pentax (?) support already the dng format, why can't all do this? Would dng be the best solution? - I don't know. But it's insane that software developer have to reverse engineer the raw formats of the big camera manufacturers and the customer has to wait for an update of his favorite software. I absolutely don't understand why they do that, especially because they aren't making any money with their slow raw converters that ship with the camera. Hopefully this will change one day.

  4. Hi Dennis,
    in my opinion the answer to your question is: yes.
    As the name says: RAW file. There is no right or wrong-there are only interpretations of the data. Some interpret better, some worse. If you want the interpretation of the manufacturer, you choose the jpeg or do a in camera conversion. In the days of film you had to be very careful what to do with your "unique data"- one mistake and everything was gone...

  5. Hello, here you can find my own comparison between Captureone, lightroom and photoninja with raf file:


  6. Dennis, you ask if we should expect to have to update software to work with new cameras. In my opinion, it depends. If you don't want camera manufacturers to continue to make improvements in their raw files or to be forced to use Adobe's DNG raw format, then no. We should be able to use the original version of ACR and get excellent results.

    If, however, you want camera manufacturers to innovate and create better and better digital cameras, then expect to have to update your software.

    As to not having another raw processor available, Fujifilm did include with your camera a copy of Silkypix which was optimized for Fuji raw files. While Silkypix is not the most awesome raw processor on the planet, it does do the job.

    Of course, I completely "get" that it would be better to be able to not break your workflow yet still be able to accommodate the Fujifilm raw files and get the full benefit of the data within it. Who wouldn't want that capability?

    As for Adobe, I'm not sure what they're waiting for in generally releasing Lightroom with updated raw processing for Fujifilm. It's been in the dev/public beta version of ACR for at least a couple weeks now and is reportedly working well (it may have been in the most recent general release version of Photoshop CC that dropped a few days back -- I haven't had time to look, and don't have access to it here at the office).

    So, that's my two cents. Your mileage may vary.