Monday, March 24, 2014

Sorry Fuji Fans, The X-T1 is Going Back


(NOTE: First, let me say that I buy and use camera gear based upon what will most likely best serve my needs.  Over the past 44 years, I have owned most brands and all have served me well at the time.  They are all good.  So, this is not a knock on Fujifilm or an endorsement of any other brand or format.)

After several days of making images with the X-T1 in a variety of situations and several times closely reviewing those images, I am still very disappointed in the mushy detail in the green foliage.  Balancing those feelings with the thoughts of how much I liked making photographs with this camera, how good it felt and what a joy it was to use, as well as how good the lenses are, in the end, I decided that I have to send them all back.  You can see some of the images and read about my experience here and here.

From the comments I have received, X-Trans sensor cameras probably work better with Photo Ninja, Iridient and Capture One than it does with Adobe Camera Raw or Lightroom.  But I use Lightroom and Photoshop.  They are my standard and my entire photographic editing and cataloging system is built around those two programs.  I have been using those programs, which are considered by many to be about the best in the industry, for 15 years (Photoshop at least, Lightroom since it was introduced). In today's technologically advanced photographic world and, considering how much the craft and hobby has grown over the past 20 years, we, as photographers, should not have to modify our working procedures, buy additional software nor have to compromise when buying a new camera.  Parts of the same industry should work together seamlessly.  Sometimes they don't.  But they should.  This is not the 19th century where independent photographic industry mom and pop outfits, inventors or small companies are developing equipment and processes independent of the rest of the world.  Things didn't work together back then and that is understandable.  They should now.

I just can't get past the problems with the demosaicing shortcomings that are very apparent in the image files.  I think Fujifilm should have been working with Adobe and other manufacturers to ensure that when the X-Trans sensor hit the market, everything worked as well as possible.  I think Adobe has not yet hit the magic combination in their construction of the raw conversion process.  I don't know why as it has been a couple of years since the X-Trans sensor has been on the market.  No other sensor or camera of which I am aware, has not been fully functional at this point in the process.  The detail is in the files, from what I have seen of samples of X-T1 image files converted with Photo Ninja and others.  It is just not in the ACR files.

Here is another, but different, example of what I mean.  The image at the top of this post looks great–when viewed as a full sized image, small and on the Web.  But look below and see what the 1:1 crop looks like.  There is just no clear detail in the grass, even near the cannon. It looks like it was painted with watercolors.  This image was made at f/8 at quite a distance, so there should be some gradual falloff of focus due to the depth of field.  But all of the grass looks bad, even at the point of the location of the cannons, where focus was set.  If you look at the tree branches in the full-sized image, they really look funny–almost as though they were painted in also.  Just really disappointing.  The cannon looks good, however. Go figure? Now this particular image is from a RAW file.  The JPEGs look a bit worse as you can see some compression artifacts.


Since I submit my work for stock, I have to look at the images 1:1 and ensure the quality is as good as it can be.  I don't believe this image would be accepted.  I'm not a pixel peeper but I have to have sharp detail in my images otherwise they don't make the cut for stock.

One commenter to this blog mentioned that it looks like noise reduction artifacts.  He may have a point there.  Fujifilm may be including in-camera noise reduction to their RAW files in a similar way that Sony includes in-camera compression to their RAW files.  That may also explain why their files have less noise at higher ISOs than other manufacturers.  I'm going to run a test later in the week to see if I can further explore this idea.  I say, just give us the RAW data and let us edit them to our needs.  Don't do anything to them!

At this point, I am back to my Olympus M4/3 E-M1 and associated lenses.  That camera with both Olympus and Panasonic lenses has never disappointed me in the image quality it produces.  The large stock agency with which I have a contract has no issue accepting those files.

Am I disappointed?  Very.  Maybe my expectations are too high after using the E-M5 and E-M1?  Did I agonize over this? Yes.  Will I watch and monitor Fujifilm and Adobe over these issues? You bet!

In the mean time, I can't afford to have a great camera and 4 lenses sitting around not being used because of the aforementioned issues.  When and if everyone agrees the green foliage detail issues are solved, I will probably delve back into this system.  After all, it is a good system for photographers.

Thanks for looking. Enjoy!

Dennis Mook

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


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29 comments:

phips said...

Well, quite obviously this has nothing to do with Fujifilm shortcomings but rather a lousy implementation by Adobe. Otherwise there wouldn't be all the other RAW converters performing much, much better. It's really a pitty. There is only one camera system treated even worse by Adobe (actually not treated at all) and that's the latest Foveon generation (talking about the Merrills, not the Quattros, since those aren't available yet). However, to be honest, I probably wouldn't trust Adobe with my X3F-Files as much as I trust Sigma Photo Pro (assuming Sigma knows best how to get the best out of the unique sensor technology...)

phips said...

Well, quite obviously this has nothing to do with Fujifilm shortcomings but rather a lousy implementation by Adobe. Otherwise there wouldn't be all the other RAW converters performing much, much better. It's really a pitty. There is only one camera system treated even worse by Adobe (actually not treated at all) and that's the latest Foveon generation (talking about the Merrills, not the Quattros, since those aren't available yet). However, to be honest, I probably wouldn't trust Adobe with my X3F-Files as much as I trust Sigma Photo Pro (assuming Sigma knows best how to get the best out of the unique sensor technology...)

Eric Berge said...

Thanks so much for this info, this is the very issue that's keeping me away from Fuji when virtually everything else, for my use case, indicates that Fuji is going to be the best option for me out there (and I am thus strongly considering a switch from my current Nikon DSLR rig). But I won't move until Lightroom/ACR is up to the other raw converters out there.

My only other question is this: if this is due to noise reduction effects, why would Photo Ninja be able to work around getting that same noise reduction in it's inputs? Seems like that can't be the total answer for the problem, but perhaps it is a contributing factor.

meandmycanon said...

Hi Dennis,
I've just retired and am looking at getting a camera. My short list - Fuji or Olympus. My heart says Fuji but my head says Olympus due to the Raw problems and the light leaking issues - the latest F/A lamp leakage pretty hard to swallow. Frankly, I'm also thinking of not bothering at all as I only publish to the web and use a Panasonic bridge camera. I hadn't thought of stock photography (with the Olympus) at all. I didn't think there was any thing in it. Where do you send your photos to? Is it worth it?
Your input would be greatly appreciated!

Dennis Mook said...

I don't yet know if it can be totally blamed on Adobe as I have read some things on the web that the X-Trans sensor, and the way it is constructed differently than a Bayer array sensor, is short on detail and can even "insert" interpolated detail. I don't have any proof of this and I have only read it a couple of places, but I try to learn as much as possible as I can from others.

I will say, however, that I am not happy at all with what Adobe has provided so far in their conversion algorithms when it comes to the X-Trans sensor. Overall, I have to give Adobe kudos as they generally have done a very good job with hundreds of cameras and sensors over the years. This one seems to be giving them so issue. So, why isn't Fujifilm working closely with them to solve it as a team? Both would benefit. I will monitor the issue. I really liked almost everything about the camera and wouldn't mind trying again when the raw conversion issues are solved. Thanks for the comment.

Dennis Mook said...

I have been using Olympus M4/3 for almost two years now and I am very happy with the images I have made. The camera, however, can be a bear to configure just the way you want it as it is almost infinitely configurable. But, once I mastered and understood the menu system, it was a joy to use. I would highly recommend the E-M1 over the E-M5. Everything that I thought was a niggle with the E-M5 was fixed in the E-M1. The E-M1 is the camera I wished all my other cameras over the years would have been.

The Fuji is a simpler camera with more dials for controls than the Olympus. The sensor is bigger, but unless you are going to make prints larger than, say 24" X 36", you won't see a difference in quality, if your technique is excellent. There were a few things on the Fujifilm that I thought lacking, such as the ability to do more than 3 frames for bracketing and changing bracketing order. The EVF in both the Olympus E-M1 and Fujifilm X-T1 are close to being equal. No real difference. I'm a big proponent of EVFs as a) what you see is what you get (your exposure is directly observed in the EVF before you push the shutter button) and b) I love being able to see my histogram live in the EVF. However, the E-M1's histogram is much larger and easier to see in the EVF.

Both cameras will produce excellent images (when the raw conversion issue is finally solved). So, it really comes down to which features are important, how it handles, how controls are implemented and menu logic.

Frankly, I like both cameras and would be happy with either one. The small things everyone finds they need improved can easily be worked around. I tell people to remember a manufacturer does not make a camera just for you. They make it to appeal to their broadest customer base. Everyone is going to have niggles. You just have to create a work-a-round for them.

I have a contract with SuperStock. Is it worth it? I have 44 years of negatives/slide/digital files. Going out and making images for yourself is pure pleasure. Going out and making images for stock causes you to have a different mindset as the subject matter may be different. What do you like versus what will sell. Then you get into copyright registration, taxes, etc. It all depends upon how much effort you want to put in to it and what you want to get out of it. Stock has been gutted, but I license many images a year, mostly in Europe and Asia. Funny how that works!

Dennis Mook said...

Eric, I'm going to run one more test. I'm going to go out with my E-M1 and shoot a couple of the scenes I shot with the Fuji to see what difference I find. I will report that in a future post. It is just a matter of when I can get back out where I was on a similar sunny day at about the same time of day so the conditions are the same.

I was looking at the old, abandoned house that I shot with the X-T1 (see previous post). I had made images of that house several years ago with a little Canon G-11. When I brought up both raw files in Photoshop with ACR RC 8.4 (to read the RAF files), the Canon files actually looked like photographic images while the Fujifilm files looked like "smoothed" paintings. When I "over applied" noise reduction to the Canon files, they lost texture and noise and looked just like the Fuji files. That is why I think there is some kind of noise reduction going on in-camera with the RAF files.

That is one place I will go back to and shoot again with the E-M1 to assess the differences.

phips said...

Of course I'm aware that X-Trans demosaicing is more complicated, since it is something completely new. And yes: Since the color filter pattern isn't as even as a Bayer pattern, at times there has to be done more interpolating (up to 5 pixels is what I heard). So the distinct atvantages are no/much less Moire and less Coma noise. The disadvantage can be softer images (which however seem to be easier to sharpen than those out of a Bayer sensor).

But now to the point: The reason why I have a hard time believing Adobe's poor performance is a result of Fuji's lack of cooperation: There is other software created by much, much smaller companies that performs better by an astonishing margin. Namely Iridient RAW Developer and PhotoNinja (but Capture One Pro as well). Why out of all things would Fuji cooperate with several small(er) companies but not the market leader? Could it rather be arrogance on Adobe's side? Or just a matter of resources? But why is it then that much smaller companies seem to be able to manage their resources much more effectively?

BenC said...

X-E1 owner and LR/PS user also. Please give PhotoNinja a try. You have two workable options: 1) Use PN to batch render the images to 16-bit ProPhotoRGB TIFF files then import into LR as normal. 2) Follow the steps in this guide: http://www.outbackphoto.net/news/2013/10/7/integrating-photoninja-with-lightroom.html to integrate LR and PN as closely as possible. Yes, either option is a hassle, but not a large one in terms of time.

Dave Ingram said...

Good post Dennis - I'm in the process of moving from Nikon to Fuji and am currently doing most of my shooting with an X100S while waiting for an X-T1. I share your frustration with how LR handles vegetation in the Fuji RAW files - there's something about X-Trans that gets mucked up there. On the other hand, I really like how the camera handles things like buildings, might be something to do with the lack of complexity in the large uniform surfaces? People look great too, but I'm typically shooting wide open so the background is going to be blurred ... and so the watercolour artifacts aren't noticeable. Landscapes, where you need the detail, especially those with lots of foliage, are where the sensor falls a bit short IMHO. Like you, most of my workflow is in LR - adding another raw processor to the mix is a pain. I'm experimenting with a couple of other processors but haven't found the perfect mix yet.

stan said...

"Sorry Fuji Fans, The X-T1 is Going Back" .... Hmmm, quite funny
Fuji fans are happy using its Fuji X cameras with class leading IQ and excelent X lenses.
You should know that your lovely Adobe provides the worst results with FujiX raws. Even absolutelly free, open source converter DCRAW provides much better results than mighty Adobe. It speaks for everythink.
Everybody needs to do its own task, and takes responsibility for it. Did you asked Adobe how did it?

Timothy Schulz said...

Iridient has none of the problems you are experiencing in LR, in fact there are plugins which export to Iridient and back into LR for free. I use LR to manage my fuji RAW files and Iridient to work on them. I have none of the issues you are having with smeared foliage.

David Nusbaum said...

I've been playing with the RAW files from the Fuji using DCRAW as a base. The camera and the sensor do not insert any interpolation data, what is coming from the camera in the RAW file is a nice collection of red, blue and green dots that represent pixels on the sensor. The files are not lacking in detail, it fact I believe the the lack of anti aliasing filter makes the rather crisp. What they do have is more green pixels and fewer red and blue pixels that are spaced farther apart. What we are seeing when we look at a RAW image is how the software developers decided to concert that RGB pattern into a representation of contiguous color. In Adobe's case I image their image pipeline was tightly coupled to the bayer pattern and morphing it to handle x-trans may not have been so easy. It's possible the CaptureOne, Apple, etc simply had a different framework and could more easily adapt to x-trans. I still think think there is a lot of potential with that sense, especially for those of us who like black and white and can take advantage of of more green pixels.

So yes Fuji threw a challenge at the major software developers. But, are we really to limit our choice of camera and lens to what Adobe decides to implement? That puts Adobe in a position of remarkable power and leaves them the option to steer us in whatever direction they would like. I'm not a fan of that position any more than I like ACR raw conversions.

At the moment I'm investing in Capture One. While Capture One does have it share of challenges too, I feel like Phase one is absolutely tied to the success of their software while Adobe has plenty of other sources of revenue these day. Of course this is my own personal opinion and I'm not asserting that it applies to anybody else.

Anonymous said...

If you believe that every manufacturer should work together then you are living in a dream world :P. I work in the building design and construction field - try getting anybody to work together. Sometimes trying to mesh hardware and software is just a little more complicated than some of us would like to think it is and often more political.

i9mark said...

Iridient, Capture One, or just DCRAW does far better job than adobe. There are known plugins that help minimize if not get rid of the artifacts. You clearly haven't experienced the maximum output that some of other software is able to get out of the Fuji quirky RAF files.

Nicolo Famiglietti said...

The green foliage smearing problem is the Achilles' heel of the Fujifilm X series cameras and the reason I don't even bother with landscape work with the X-Trans sensor. I've had better luck with portraits.

Anonymous said...

As stated by others, there are several alternative RAW processors that produce excellent results with Fuji-X files and most would easily integrate into your existing workflow. I can't help but think that your decision is akin to throwing out the baby with the bath water. To each is own but learning to use Iridient or Photo Ninja would have taken less time and effort than putting together a rationale for moving off the X cameras.

Larry J. Clark said...

Dennis,

I appreciate your quandary and willingness to go back for another set of comparison shots. However it sounds like you'll only be shooting the Oly. Is that right? You need to find a day similar to the original shoot, but then shoot both cameras. This is the problem with outdoor comparison shots -- too easy for variables to sneak in.

Best of luck.

Unknown said...

It's not been mentioned, but Apple just updated Aperture to (among other things) handle X-T1 files. I've not yet done any tests to see how it handles foliage.

Dennis Mook said...

Larry, you are correct that I would need to make images of the same subject with equivalent focal lengths, aperture, etc., to have the best comparison. If I do go back out to the area of the old house, which is over an hour's drive away, I would do it on the same sunny kind of day, same time of day, equivalent focal lengths,etc. to make as many things as possible equal. Perfect way to do it? Not by any means, but I'm interested in the rendering of the image rather than sharpness or other aspects of the image file. I'm more interested in the "look" the files have out of the camera, both raw and JPEG, than other parameters. The X-T1's files look so different from any other digital camera I have owned, that I want to subjectively compare them to the E-M1's as well as the D800E files. Just to see how different they look, not necessarily for absolute quality. Thanks for the comment.

Dennis Mook said...

Thank you for passing on the information.

Niccolo said...

Dave, My experience parallels yours for the most part. The X-Trans sensor handles large uniform surfaces and people well enough. I'd say the sensor falls not a bit short, but "woefully" short when required to deal with landscapes with lots of foliage. I would like to add that the same "watercolor" effect has appeared in images of cityscapes taken at a distance. In one shot taken of Guanajuato, Mexico, the clouds and mountains looked good, but the houses and other buildings spread out along the base of the Picacho mountains looked very much Dennis' leafless tangle of bushes and trees in the crop of the shot featuring the cannons. To the best of your knowledge is Fuji aware of the smearing problem? Is it being addressed?

Larry J. Clark said...

With regards to X-T1 updates in Aperture or Lightroom: Don't expect any changes in how the software handles the greens, etc. Usually those upgrades are just so that the software recognizes the camera body information in the EXIF data.

Larry J. Clark said...

If you're eyeballing the result just for aesthetics, your approach may be enough. If you are serious about comparisons it may not be effective. Your approach automatically introduces variables into the process that have a direct bearing on any comparison. And since you speak of rendering; that is exactly what you won't be able to compare.

I have to assume that the X-T1 already went back, else you would be able to do a side-be-side comparison. Correct? Otherwise, the two-camera approach would be a no-brainer.

As for (not) changing your workflow for Photo Ninja...I work in PhotoShop, but I do the Fujifilm RAW conversions in Photo Ninja. I have my own cataloging system so when I select a frame in Bridge, Photo Ninja automatically executes. When I'm done there I just click a button in Photo Ninja and the image opens in PhotoShop. This is the same way ACR works in PhotoShop. In either Photo Ninja or ACR, you choose which parameters to adjust. That said, Photo Ninja does seem to take more time than ACR. There could be several reasons for that, but since Photo Ninja renders better conversions, some of that time may be spent in processing. It makes you wonder if Adobe made their decision regarding ACR's conversion of X-Trans files based partially on processing times.

Anonymous said...

I haven't read the posts, but why return the camera? It's evidently an Adobe problem. You can fix this by getting Lightroom to use PhotoNinja or C1 Express as the raw processor.

John Rausch said...

After countless hours trying different raw processors, I am thoroughly discouraged with my photos from my X-E2, especially from Iceland. Even the smooth black rocks look like watercolor and moss is a total mess. I have tried Photoninja, even paid for it, but am convinced it's just doing a lot more by default than one who works on images after raw conversion and that makes them look better. A better JPG maker, I call it.

I think it's all about the X-Trans raw file and not Adobe. Other people are making thing look better, but the smearing is still there, just sharpened up and fiddled with -- nothing you couldn't do in Photoshop, etc. but shouldn't have to. At least there's one person out there that thinks pretty much the same as me about the Fujifilm images. Some are stunning, lots are trash.

Dennis Mook said...

John, thanks for the comment. I understand your frustration. In fact, I still would like to own the X-T1 as I loved using it. The camera and lenses were really nice to hold and use. However, like you, I am not at all happy with the files. I can't understand those who are thrilled with their X-trans images. I have come to the conclusion that either they don't have high standards or they are so casual about their images that they don't strive for excellence or closely examine their images during the editing process, or simply can't see what you and I see.

Yesterday, I installed the latest versions of Lightroom and Photoshop CC with the latest and greatest ACR. I brought up some of my X-T1 images to see if I saw any improvement, but they didn't look any better. I wish Fujifilm would offer a traditional 24mp sensor (maybe a Sony?) in an alternate version of the X-T1. That would be a nice alternative, giving great quality and a pleasure to use, considering the features, ergonomics and lenses available.

For now, I'm sticking with my Olympus E-M1 with some superb lenses as my alternate kit to my D800E. Under the best circumstances, their files are practically equivalent. Under really adverse circumstances, of course, the Nikon does a better job in creating technically better files. Keeping both is my current solution.

jlmphotos said...

Dennis,
Personally I don't care what camera you use or why. I will say that I too am a stock shooter, and have NO PROBLEMS having my images accepted (and sold) from the X-T1. I have learned to process the images in LR5.7, but I on occasion use Iridient Developer, and the RL method of sharpening. I love the Fuji, but I can understand if you don't. That's cool. At first I thought about returning my X-E1 back in 2013, but I learned to work with other developers. Yes, at times it slows down the workflow - and I sometimes come back with 4,000-5,000 images between my D800, and the X-T1.

Dennis Mook said...

Jorge,

Thank you for your comment. This post was written just over a year ago after buying three camera bodies and not having a satisfactory experience with the Lightroom version that was current at the time. If you haven't done so, you could go back and read about my experience, but it really doesn't matter in the greater scheme of things.

In January of this year, I purchased another new copy of the X-T1 and have written about it extensively again, this time with better results. I still think Lightroom has a way to go to correct the green foliage mush as well as the "outline" I find around small, detailed objects, but it is much better than the Lightroom of a year ago. Additionally, I have found Photo Ninja serves my purpose as well as Iridient serves yours. As of now, I will keep the X-T1 and continue to use it.

Again, thanks for taking time to comment.