RAW, JPEG, Silkypix and “Fuji Colors”

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by Rico Pfirstinger

Since pretty much everybody wrote about Lightroom 4.4RC in the past few days, I won’t. After all, what’s the big story? It took Adobe a full year to get their paying customers what the free RAW File Converter EX software and Fuji’s internal JPEG engine delivered from day one: decent X-Trans demosaicing quality. Big deal! But for those who are still interested in LR4.4RC, I have updated my RAW converter comparison set on Flickr with several new renderings.

Let’s take a look at colors, so-called “Fuji Colors” in particular. It’s often noted that Fujifilm’s built-in JPEG engine is one of the best in the entire industry. Obviously, people either love it, hate it or are just plain ignorant about it, but if you belong to the “I love it” crowd, there’s a good chance that “Fuji Colors” have played a role when you made your decision to buy an X-series camera.

The heart of these colors are the different film simulations Fuji’s cameras are offering in either the shooting menu or in the camera’s internal RAW converter. X-Trans sensor cameras feature five different color film modes, named after famous analog slide and negative FUJIFILM brands: Provia, Astia, Velvia, Pro Neg. Std and Pro Neg. Hi. Make no mistake: These aren’t accurate recreations of analog films. Instead, you get modern, state-of-the art color gradations that feature key qualities of their vintage role models: Provia is a more-or-less neutral all-purpose film mode, Astia delivers more distinct “Fuji Colors” with added pop in the shadows and smooth highlights, while Velvia offers high-contrast JPEGs with strong, saturated colors. Pro Neg. Std and Hi deliver accurate and pleasant skin tones, with “Std” acting as the neutral option and “Hi” as the one giving additional pop and contrast.

Here’s a practical example illustrating the five different film simulation modes:

This example was shot with an X-Pro1 and the Fujinon XF 60mm Macro prime lens at f/4.0, 1/480s and ISO 200. The top row is showing Provia, Astia and Velvia, the bottom row shows Pro Neg. Std, Pro Neg. Hi and a Lightroom development that looks like something in-between Provia and Pro Neg. Std. You can click on the image for a hi-res view, but even if you don’t, you can clearly see that Fuji’s different film modes can deliver quite distinct results. Remember, this is all the same shot, just developed with different film simulation modes in the camera’s internal RAW converter (aka JPEG engine).

Let’s decide for Astia at this time, as it offers a very distinct purple-red rendering of the flower, with smooth highlights and nice contrast in the darker shadows. A typical problem of mono-colored subjects like this one are overflowing RGB color channels, in this case the red color channel. Here’s a magnified view of our Astia shot, showing three different color saturation level settings that can be applied either in the shooting menu or when (re-)developing the RAW file in-camera:

The color settings used here were -2 (left), 0 (center) and +2 (right). Clearly, too much color saturation in the reds goes at the cost of image detail, so we are better off using a saturation setting of -2 (aka “low” when you are using the internal RAW converter). Here’s the less color saturated Astia JPEG of this shot, straight from the camera’s built-in RAW converter:

As usual, click on the image for a full-size view. This was a hand-held macro shot, so I used the smallest available AF field size and moved it precisely over the area I wanted to be in-focus.

So far, so good. We now have an image with quite distinct “Fuji Colors”. Some people may like it, some may not, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that many of those who like their own JPEGs with Fuji colors would often also like to achieve similar looking results with external third-party RAW converters like Silkypix or the free RAW File Converter EX (which is an older version 3 of Silkypix).

How can we do it? Let’s play it through! Here’s the RAW file as it looks in Silkypix 5 with the software’s default settings:

Uh-oh! While this default rendering proves that claims about X-Trans sensors being incapable of delivering saturated reds are wrong, this is obviously not the result that we had in mind. In order to emulate the Astia rendering of the in-camera JPEG engine, we need to make some changes. But there’s more! If you click on this image for a full-size view, you will see ugly artifacts in the deep reds, almost like dirt soiling the colors of the flower. Here’s a zoomed-in view of this phenomenon, just click on it to see it in full size:

This doesn’t look nice, not to mention that the red is somewhat over-saturated and obscuring image details. So let’s correct this, shall we? After a few modifications in Silkypix, the image looks like this:

To make the comparison a little easier for you, here’s the original Astia JPEG again:

It’s not exactly the same, but it’s close enough for me. Of course, you could achieve a perfect match with a few further adjustments in Photoshop, Lightroom, Aperture or any other powerful image editor, but maybe an exact match wouldn’t really improve the image, anyway? Also note that the “dirt” and other color artifacts in the red flower are now gone.

So what exactly did I do to make it work?
Well, buy my next book to find out.
Good night, and good luck!

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X100s first impressions

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The X100s is already available in Japan. So here are some first impressions about the new Fuji-gem from the country of the rising sun! Ian posted on Google+ his considerations (click here).

“[..] ISO 2000 looks great, and I do find I need it a bit. It’s better than the D90.  And it isn’t a noise factor, it is dynamic range.  Past 1000-1250 the D90 files looked sickly and unnatural even when properly exposed.[…] Other thoughts, the manual focus ring still has the fly-by-wire limitations.  It is nowhere as responsive as a direct coupled lens. […] The AF-C mode on the other hand has impressed me so far.  For keeping the focus on a moving child’s eye, it works as well as a DSLR. […] Oh, one piece of bad news, I have managed to freeze the camera once.  I had to take the battery out to solve the problem.”

At the end Ian says you’re free to ask him questions. So, just visit his site here, read his first impressions, and if you have any questions, feel free to ask him.

Ah, and, if you want, join the Desperate Aperture User Facebook page of Fujirumor reader JasonChart (The Desperate Aperture Users page, is dedicated to a single cause. To revive the company’s interest in professional applications, Aperture foremost)! C’mon Apple… make your homeworks!

X100s: AmazonUS / BHphoto / Adorama / AmazonUK / AmazonDE /

X20: AmazonUS (blacksilver) / BHphoto (blacksilver) / Adorama (blacksilver) / AmazonUK (blacksilver) / ebayITA /  / AmazonDE / AmazonITA /

image courtesy: Ian (Go0gle+)

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ACR 7.4 RC conclusions at soundimageplus + X20 vs RX100 ISO comparison

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image courtesy: soundimageplus

Soundimageplus tested ACR7.4 RC over the last days and posted some conclusions here about the Fuji X-Trans files (and multi-image stitching) with the new update.

“The simple answer to that is that it’s very good indeed… Dynamic range is OK, Fuji claim a lot for it but its good not great in terms of the raw files… In terms of comparison with what else I use, these are clearly the best files from any of my mirrorless cameras, other than my DP Merrill files at ISO 100 of course… I also prefer what I’m getting now from these Fuji files to those that I get from my NEX cameras…  I want quick and efficient raw processing and I’ve now got that. Why this wasn’t done months ago is still a mystery and it has, I am convinced, affected how people view Fuji’s products and indeed sales of their cameras..”

In the meantime FR-reader Tom posted this ISO-comparison image in the comments to the previous post. You can find the article here at dslr-check (translated version). The comparison includes the X20, Sony RX100, XF1, and Leica D-LUX6.

image courtesy: dslr-check

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X100s + X20 test shots

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We are all hungry for real X100s and X20 reviews. I check the web every day!

The good thing is, I’m not alone in my daily search. Fujirumors reader Jonti spotted this webiste (translated version) that seems to compare x100 and x100s shots.

thanks Jonti

_

Click here to see X20 sample shots on Flickr or click here for another X20 Flickr photostream.

P.S.: you can preorder the X20 in Belgium, at the PCH store in Brussels. They received a sample of the X20 and took some images of the camera here. For the unboxing video click here. Preorder in silver here, and in black here. They were told by Fujifilm Belgium, that the delivery estimation in Belgium would be March.

P.P.S.: FR-reader M. received an email from the main Fuji Dealer in Ireland. According to the dealer, they will get the X100s on Friday or Monday. Also at AmazonUK the X100s should be released on the March 1. And FR-reader G. emailed me this: “My mate is a fuji dealer and speaks to fuji uk a lot…he told me today that fuji wants us in the uk to have our x100s in our hands in time for the focus on imaging show.. That show runs march 3-6, he says this Friday they should ship and he would be surprised if I did not have cam for Monday.”

X100s: AmazonUS / BHphoto / Adorama / AmazonUK / AmazonDE /

X20: AmazonUS (blacksilver) / BHphoto (blacksilver) / Adorama (blacksilver) / AmazonUK (blacksilver) / ebayITA /  / AmazonDE / AmazonITA /

image courtesy “just zis guy” on Flickr: “Noise is also pretty good up to ISO 3200 and 6400 is not great but usable if you crank the noise reduction up to the max (+2). 12800 is unusable and only offered so they had say they have it.

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Feedback: Lightroom 4.4 and ACR 7.4 release candidates

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Hi

First of all, let me say that the contest for the £50 voucher is closed. I’ll inform the winner as soon as possible.

Before I go back at work, here are the first links with feedback about the LR4.4 and ACR7.4 release candidates… now it’s your turn, Apple!

[Reminder: Rico Pfirstinger updated his RAW converter comparison with LR4.4 samples (click here).  Also dpreview posted first impressions.]

Soundimageplus (click here):

“There is certainly now much more foliage detail, colour rendition is excellent and as you can see with the last 100% blowup ISO 6400 with some noise reduction added in Photoshop is simply spectacular… it does seem that finally we can see the potential of the raw files from this sensor, in an efficient and familiar workflow.”
image courtesy: soundimageplus