I took the X-T1 out all day yesterday to photograph in a variety of situations to continue my "shakedown" of the camera and lenses. I made about 100 images. I wanted to primarily test the sensor on finely detailed objects as well as green foliage. I had read and seen, on the web, the issues with Adobe's raw conversion algorithm smearing detail, making foliage look as though it had been painted and the "white lines" or " white borders" that would appear on edges. After looking at my RAW images in the new release candidate 8.4 for Adobe Camera Raw as well as the JPEGS in Lightroom 5, to be honest, I have mixed feelings about what I saw. Read on.
I first went out and tested the camera's ability to track moving objects. I wanted to really test the X-T1's ability to successfully track fast moving objects and figured an extreme test would be to photograph oncoming Amtrak passenger trains coming almost directly at me at 79 mph! Now THAT would be a test! It turned out that the southbound train was in direct sun, but the northbound train was backlit. An even harder task. The camera performed admirably and successfully tracked the trains.
Here are the settings I used:
The first train I photographed was backlit and northbound. I had set my advance for L, @ 3 fps. The second train was southbound and for that one I set my advance for H, or 8 fps.
Autofocus was set for the camera to choose the area. I tried the other setting and tracking a train the day before it did not do as well. Setting the autofocus to letting the camera choose the spot to focus seemed to work well. However, I normally wouldn't use that setting.
Auto White Balance
Raw + LF JPEG
These are from the JPEGS from the first set of images. These are cropped somewhat to show just the train and signal towers. Additionally, the shadow slider was increased to lighten the front of the backlit train. I think the camera did a great job tracking this fast moving train and keeping it in focus. I am pleased with the sharpness of the focus in these images. Again, this was at 3 fps.
The next set are from the southbound train. Again, from JPEGS. These haven't been cropped or edited. These were made at 8 fps.
The last two images are not quite as sharp as the others, but I believe that has to do with shutter speed more than focus accuracy. At only 1/1000th second with an object that close, now moving "by" me instead of "at" me, the shutter speed, from my many years experience photographing trains, was inadequate. Having written that, you don't see the slight blur unless you enlarge the image almost to 1:1.
The next series of tests were of the ability of the camera and lenses to record fine detail, especially of greens and foliage. Here is where I found problems with the files. All these files are from RAW files. No editing except to add some sharpening and reduce the file size for web viewing. But what I write is what I saw on my large monitor.
The first was made of the tops of southern yellow pine trees. The focus was set for "S" and locked on. In the full image, it looks good, but in the 1:1 crop that the image looks bad. Detail is mushy. That is the only way I could describe it. Almost looks like the camera didn't focus properly. But, I repeated it several times with the same results. The focus in the viewfinder "locked on" in S mode. I'm not happy with this at all. I even pumped in more than normal sharpening for these images to try to improve them.
Let's look at the next test. Another set of images from RAW files, again, with more than normal sharpening. Its a nice scene, backlit with lots of detail. The 1:1 image shows the rocks on the path as well as the small patch of green grass on the right as "painterly" and the detail doesn't look real. Again, it appears smeared and doesn't render the individual rocks clearly. Focus was on S and locked on to this area so it is in focus, according to the camera. This not the result of JPEG compression as it also looked like this on my 24" calibrated monitor. This is not good.
The next set shows similar effects. Look at the branches next to the tree in the center of the crop. The detail looks painted in and not crisp. Same with the detail in the green grassy area. Again, from RAW files in the release candidate 8.4 in ACR. These are not JPEG artifacts as the RAW image looks like this also. These were confirmed in focus at as I have also included a 1:1 crop of the branches against the sky, some of which are in front of the grassy area and some are behind that area.
These two above were made at 46mm, 1/140th second at f/11 with IS turned on. If you are thinking that maybe there is movement blue in the camera, here is another 1:1 of branches against the sky from the same image. There is no camera movement.
Not that all my images were not as I had expected. Here is an image of a re-creation of the fortifications at the eastern front of the Petersburg National Battlefield Park. The images taken of the fortifications look excellent! Everything is crisp and detail is rendered as it should. But note, there is not a lot of green foliage in the image. Again, from RAW, a bit more sharpening than I normally would apply for viewing on the web.
Again, I'm not sure how well these issues appear on the web, but they are very apparent to me when looking critically at the images on my 24" high quality calibrated monitor. One last set. This is an old, abandoned house that I have photographed in the past. Instead of the details of the old, weathered clapboards and tin roof being visible, it is almost as though the wood has been sanded smooth. I can only describe the files as looking "processed" or "smoothed" rather than crisp and clear. I pulled up images I made of this same house a year ago with my little Canon G11, shot on RAW, and they actually look better and more detailed than these images. I'll have some final comments after you look at these two.
Again, these are from RAW files. The only editing was adding some sharpening.
I don't know what to think about all this. I think Fujifilm has made a terrific camera. The X-T1 is a real "shooter's camera" as I like to say. I really like using it. The size, weight, shape and controls are perfect. The ergonomics and haptics are great. Everything works as it should and it screams quality. I think the problems with the files have to do with Adobe not rendering the RAW files to reflect the real quality available. I had read one photographer's blog where he felt that Adobe had now solved the past issues with this version of ACR. I disagree. I see mush. Additionally, in the LF JPEGS from the X-T1, I am seeing compression artifacts at 1:1. I don't remember seeing compression artifacts in other files at best quality JPEG settings.
I don't want to pick on this camera or the resulting images. I really like using it. I believe Fujifilm has solved, for the most part, the problem with tracking focus. Their color rendition is nice. They have the largest and fastest EVF. The lenses are terrific. But, in my heart, I think my images from my Olympus E-M5 and E-M1 are sharper, crisper and render fine detail better. That is probably because it has a conventional Bayer-type sensor and not the revolutionary X-Trans sensor. Image quality is the final arbiter of whether or not one is satisfied with a particular camera. After all, it is about the final image, not the equipment used to make it. Equipment/gear can make the experience more or less pleasurable, but image quality is what matters to me when choosing a specific camera for any specific assignment.
To say I am disappointed is an understatement. I ended up purchasing three copies of this camera, the final one working properly. So now I have a decision to make. Should I wait for Adobe to develop demosaicing algorithms that will do this sensor justice? Should I buy, what I am told is a better raw converter, Photo Ninja? I don't mind spending the money, but I would hate to have to incorporate several additional steps into my import, conversion and editing process just to get files with which I will be happy. As of this minute, I don't know. I'll have to mull it over and weigh the pleasure of using this camera with the frustration of the mushy detail in the files.
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