Saturday, August 6, 2016

My Fuji X-E1 JPEG Settings

Picture Opportunity - Hunstville, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 18mm, f.2.8, 15 seconds, ISO 3200, Astia, dynamic range 100,
shadows hard, highlights medium-hard, saturation high, sharpness normal,
noise reduction medium-weak.
I've been asked a couple of times now about my JPEG settings on the Fuji X-E1. Which dynamic range setting do you use? Which film simulation setting? Noise reduction? Highlight? Shadow? Color? White balance?

I'll start with dynamic range. There are four choices: 100, 200, 400 and Auto. I typically choose 400, except for astrophotography, in which I'll choose 100.

The way the dynamic range settings on the X-E1 works is that the camera will underexpose the image to preserve highlights and then push the shadows and mid-tones to the correct level. This allows the camera to have just as good of a dynamic range with JPEGs as you would with RAW and messing with sliders or curves in your RAW developer of choice.
Buffalo Hill - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/5, 1/4000, ISO 800, B&W+R, dynamic range 400,
shadows hard, highlights medium-hard, sharpness normal, noise reduction medium weak.
Base ISO on the X-E1 is ISO 200, and Fuji has programmed dynamic range 100 to always be on at base ISO. Dynamic range 200 requires a minimum ISO of 400 and dynamic range 400 requires a minimum ISO of 800. In all of these cases, the camera is actually at somewhere around ISO 100-ish (I think really closer to ISO 140, but I cannot prove it), and the processor is pushing the data to an equivalent ISO level of 200, 400 or 800 respectively. This is all thanks to Sony's (who makes the X-Trans sensor for Fuji) ISO-less technology (which I won't get into here).

What it means for your JPEGs is that the greatest dynamic range is found at ISO 800 (as long as you have the dynamic range set to 400). Since ISO 200 and ISO 800 are difficult to tell apart even when viewing 100% crops, you're not sacrificing much (if anything) to achieve it. To me using dynamic range 400 is a no-brainer. For astrophotography, however, I choose dynamic range 100 because I want deep blacks.

I shoot RAW+JPEG with the X-E1. I've found that I rarely post-process the RAW files because the out-of-camera JPEGs look good; however, the advantage of shooting RAW+JPEG is that the camera will let you reprocess your exposures. If you got the settings wrong in the field (which happens) it's not a huge deal because you have an opportunity to fix it.
Blue Umbrella At The Lake - Antelope Island State Park, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/9, 1/2500, ISO 800, Provia, dynamic range 400,
shadows normal, highlights normal, saturation high, sharpness normal,
noise reduction medium-weak, white balance fine-tuned to +2 Red and -2 Blue.
For film simulation, I've tried them all and I have a few favorites. None of them are bad (with, perhaps, the exception of Sepia), but some suit my tastes better than others.

For color, my go-to choice is Astia--bump up the saturation to high and it's great for landscapes or keep the saturation at normal and it's great for people pictures. I really like the way Astia makes colors look, and it seems to have just the right amount of contrast. If I want vibrant colors I'll use Velvia, typically with the color set to normal for bright-light scenes and set to medium-high or high for overcast scenes. I find Velvia to have too much contrast in some situations. Then I have my own "Classic Chrome" formula which is modified from Provia. It has a more vintage feel.

For black-and-white there are four choices: B&W, B&W+Y, B&W+R and B&W+G. B&W+Y simulates using a yellow filter with black-and-white film, B&W+R simulates using a red filter with black-and-white film, and B&W+G simulates using a green filter with black-and-white film. Which one is better depends on the situation (it's good to know what those filters do with black-and-white film photography so you know what's being simulated). I like to make the highlights and shadows either hard or medium-hard (depending on the lighting and scene).
Monochrome Leaves #2 - Salt Lake City, Utah
Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/9, 1/125, ISO 4000, B&W+G, dynamic range 400,

shadows hard, highlights medium-hard, sharpness medium-hard, noise reduction medium-weak.
I'll adjust the highlights and shadows (either more or less than normal) depending on the situation and the look I'm after. If I want more contrast I'll set them to hard or medium-hard. If I want less contrast I'll set them to soft or medium-soft. A lot of times the normal setting works well. It changes from image-to-image.

I typically set sharpness to normal. I will often select medium-hard sharpness for up-close detail shots and medium-soft sharpness for portraits.

Noise reduction looks best set to weak for ISO 800 and below, medium-weak for ISOs above ISO 800 but below ISO 3200, and normal for ISO 3200 and above. However, I typically just set it to medium-weak and forget about it.
Fresh Ingredients - South Weber, Utah
 Fuji X-E1, 18-55mm lens at 55mm, f/4, 1/500, ISO 800, Astia, dynamic range 400,
shadows medium-hard, highlights medium-weak, saturation high, sharpness medium-hard,
noise reduction medium-weak.
I use auto-white-balance all of the time. The camera rarely gets it wrong. Sometimes I'll fine-tune the white balance to make an image a little warmer or cooler.

I use auto-ISO with the upper limit set to ISO 6400 and the minimum shutter speed set to 1/125, but I'm not afraid to manually set the ISO and shutter speed. The camera's design makes adjusting these things a breeze, and it's easy to go between full-manual mode and semi-auto modes.

Camera settings should be dynamic. Light is always changing. Scenes are always changing. Situations are always changing. Camera settings should also change according to what's going on in front of the lens.

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