Friday, August 19, 2016

Fuji X-E1 & Dynamic Range

Sunset Over Riverdale - Riverdale, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/10, 1/125, ISO 1000, out-of-camera JPEG.
I captured Sunset Over Riverdale last night. It wasn't the greatest sunset by a long shot, but due to some clouds and smoke (form a nearby wildfire), it was decent enough for me to stop and make an exposure. I had my Fuji X-E1 with me, so that's what I used.

When I viewed the image, which is an out-of-camera JPEG, I was impressed by the dynamic range. With other digital cameras that I've had, I could have created this image, but only by significantly manipulating the RAW file. With the X-E1, I got this straight out of the camera, no further editing required.

The scene was very contrasty. I shot directly into the sun, which had some smoke and clouds and atmosphere to diffuse it a little, but was still bright. And the lower part of the image is in a valley and so was in a shadow. My previous experience shooting this type of scene is that details are easily lost in the highlights and shadows, and it takes either a lot of manipulating of the RAW file or even HDR (with multiple exposures) to make something that looks like this.

I've never had a camera-created JPEG ever show this much dynamic range. It's almost unbelievable, yet I wonder why we all shouldn't expect results like this from out-of-camera JPEGs? If one company can do it, why not the rest?

I made some crops--I did this on the X-E1. I'm not sure what percentage the crops are (as the camera doesn't indicate), but I believe they're more than 100%, perhaps somewhere near 150% or 175%, but that's just a guess. Nobody will ever look at your images this closely. Depending on how big these crops are displayed on your monitor, what you are viewing is roughly how large you'd see them if you were looking closely at a 20" x 30" print. When people view large prints they naturally step backwards to take the whole thing in and don't view them from 18" away (or however close your eyes are to the monitor).
Massive Crop from Sunset Over Riverdale
Massive Crop from Sunset Over Riverdale
Massive Crop from Sunset Over Riverdale
Massive Crop from Sunset Over Riverdale
Massive Crop from Sunset Over Riverdale
Massive Crop from Sunset Over Riverdale
Notice that the sun is slightly clipped. I think a third stop less exposure and it would have remained yellow instead of a little white on the top half. It's not unexpected to clip the highlights when you're pointing the camera directly at the sun.

There is shadow details in almost all of the dark areas. There are some blocked up shadows here and there in expected places (such as the underpass), but it's very minimal. If I had underexposed by a third stop to prevent the sun from clipping, I probably wouldn't have been able to retain the shadow details quite as well. It was a trade off.

To barely clip the highlights and barely have blocked up shadows in this extreme light situation is nothing short of amazing. It's not unheard of for processed RAW files (especially from full-frame cameras), but for a camera-made JPEG from an APS-C sensor it's not what one expects whatsoever.

Notice how the sun is round and without weird artifacts or banding. A lot of digital cameras struggle with this, especially regarding the out-of-camera JPEGs (but sometimes even with the RAW files). The X-E1 handled it like a champ.

Digital noise is pretty minimal. You notice it in the massive crops, but otherwise it's no issue at all. I really like the way the camera renders digital noise--it's much more film-grain-like than other digital cameras I've used.

The lens is pretty sharp--much sharper than a typical 18-55mm "kit" zoom. You see a little bit of diffraction setting in from the small aperture, but not enough to worry about. There are some prime lenses that aren't as sharp as this.

In conclusion, the Fujifilm X-E1 handled this tough light situation with ease, producing a nice camera-made JPEG with an unexpectedly large dynamic range. I could make a 20" x 30" print of this photograph and be happy with the results. 

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