Sunday, July 24, 2016

Putting The X-Trans JPEG To The Test - Taking A Midday Hike With An X-E1

Pineview Art - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/170, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, high saturation.
In my review of the Fujifilm X-E1, I said, "This camera makes a strong case for shooting JPEGs." One area where RAW really makes sense is high-contrast situations where the highlights are bright and the shadows are dark--you need to squeeze every bit of dynamic range out of the camera. Not too many people like blown highlights and blocked up shadows in their photographs (including me). Typically, out-of-camera JPEGs aren't a good way to achieve maximum dynamic range.

Fuji X-Trans cameras, however, are a bit different. Fuji has given photographers good tools to get great-looking out-of-camera JPEGs, even in difficult situations. One such tool is their dynamic range settings.

The way the dynamic range settings on Fuji X-Trans cameras work is that the camera actually underexposes a scene (to ensure that highlights are not blown), and then increases the shadows and mid-tones to the appropriate brightness. You have three choices: 100 (which is standard and always on), 200 (which requires a minimum ISO of 400) and 400 (which requires a minimum ISO of 800).

All of this is made possible because of how Sony's newer generation of sensors work (Sony is who manufacturers Fuji's X-Trans sensors). Instead of adding additional power to the sensor during exposure to increase ISO sensitivity, Sony sensors simply need to be brightened after exposure. In other words, ISO 100 and ISO 3200 are actually the same (at the moment of exposure) on a Sony-made sensor, and the difference is how much the image is brightened after the exposure.
Fallen Tree Over Wheeler Creek - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/1300, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+G Film Simulation. Soft Highlights, Medium-Soft Shadows.
This is why Sony sensors have a leg-up on dynamic range. Fuji's X-Trans sensors have a further advantage because they have more green light-sensitive sensor elements (55% vs. 50%), and, since green is where luminosity information comes from, there is a better ability to see in the dark.

Fuji (very cleverly) allows the photographer to take full advantage of this with their out-of-camera JPEG processing. You don't have to rely on RAW to achieve a large dynamic range. All you have to do is allow the camera to underexpose the image to prevent clipped highlights, and let the camera automatically increase the shadows and mid-tones to where they should be.

There are many other great tools included on Fuji cameras to help create good-looking out-of-camera JPEGs. One is Film Simulation, which allows you to select the look that you are trying to get. They're not necessarily accurate replications of the films for which they're named, but they look quite good nonetheless. Another is auto-white-balance, which is very good. One reason many photographers shoot RAW is because they don't want to "risk" getting white-balance wrong in the field (and they don't have the time to be constantly adjusting it), but you don't have to worry much about that with Fuji cameras. Another tool is RAW processing in-camera. If a JPEG doesn't come out just right, as long as you shot RAW+JPEG, you have an opportunity to fine-tune a new JPEG that is to your liking. 

I put all of this to the test yesterday. I took a midday hike in Ogden Canyon, Utah. The harsh summer sun was creating extreme highlights and very dark shadows in the forested scene--very difficult to effectively capture, and something that I would normally shy away from attempting. Afterwards I had lunch at the nearby The Oaks Restaurant, which also offered challenging light. The first image was captured at 12:54 PM and the last was at 2:53 PM--the time of day when most photographers have put their cameras away. All of these photographs are out-of-camera JPEGs.
Summer Vegetation In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/4, 1/1900, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simulation, Saturation Medium-High.
Red Bicycle Rider - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/1000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Siulation, High Saturation.
Tree, Creekside - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/125, ISO 5000.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Lily By The River - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 31mm, f/5.6, 1/3000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Brush & Rocky Cliff Wall - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/850, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simulation, Saturation Medium-High.
Peace, 'Kay? - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 8-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/320, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Hank - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/680, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simulation, Saturation Medium-High.
Antique Beer - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/60, ISO 6400.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Mint Chocolate Chip - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/125, ISO 3200.
Dynamic Range 400, Velvia Film Simuation, Saturation Medium-High.
The Fragile Kitchen - South Ogden, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/125, ISO 3200.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Waiting In The Shade - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/500, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Big Leaves - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/1240, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Big Leaf - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/850, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, Astia Film Simulation, Saturation High.
Wheeler Creek Trail - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/2000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+G Film Simulation, Soft Highlights, Normal Shadows.
Cliffs In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/8, 1/640, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R Film Simulation, Soft Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.
Wasatch Mountains In Ogden Canyon - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/2000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R, Normal Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.
The Oaks - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5.6, 1/1600, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R Film Simulation, Medium-Soft Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.
Umbrella Abstract - Ogden Canyon, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/6.4, 1/1000, ISO 800.
Dynamic Range 400, B&W+R Film Simulation, Soft Highlights, Medium-Hard Shadows.

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