The Fujifilm XPro-1 some months on: my settings.
Kia Ora tatou:
This week’s blog posts are kind of in two parts: having owned the X pro for a couple of months now, I have had plenty of time to get to know it, and for it to get to know me. I suspect we have reached the point where we have an ami accommodation, and as a result it has become my daily. I now find that I really only get out the Big Boys Toy when there is a job for it to do (grand landscape, studio portraiture and the like). For the rest of the time my XPro-1 follows me everywhere. And, having had time to get to know its little foibles, I have come to a sense of how it works for me, and the way I like it to sit be set up. When I wrote my formal review, one or two of the people who came and visited the blog asked me what my settings were. I did not share these at the time, since I was still working them out for myself. But now I have had time to consolidate the way that I work, I would like to share this with you.
One of the good things about the XPro-1 is that you do not have to dig deep into the menu (unless you want to) to locate and set all your normal shooting settings. My method is to use the “Q” button, which presumably stands for quick, and make any adjustments there. Simple.
At the moment there are few if any raw converters capable of making sense of the camera’s rather radical X-Trans sensor, and those that do seem unable to extract any more out of the raw file then the camera supplies in Jpeg. In fact, the Jpegs are so brilliant that there hardly seems any point in using raw files at all, other than the fact that the one is restricted to 8 bit while the other offers the option of working in 16 bit, and therefore having greater subtlety and depth in the files. However I am continuing to shoot in raw plus Jpeg, in the hope that some raw converter application will eventually be able to make sense of the files and deliver something more than the Jpegs currently do. We can but hope…
Because the Jpegs are that good, I am tending to avoid focusing on ETTR (expose to the right), which is, generally speaking, the best approach to take with raw files, and focusing on getting the best possible Jpeg file. It is worth remembering here that shooting a Jpeg is rather like shooting slide film; because it is all done and dusted and the camera, and because the options for post-production are much more limited than shooting raw files, you need to be very careful with shooting a Jpeg, making sure that all the adjustable parameters are set as perfectly as possible before making the photograph. This means paying particular attention to such things as white balance, exposure, saturation, picture style and, of course, sharpness and contrast. Because adjusting these things in post-production is an issue, it is better to get them right before you make the exposure. Actually, thinking this way is, in its own way, just as important with a raw file…
Note here that these things do not apply to the Fujifilm X-100, which uses a conventional sensor.
So, for those of you who are using the X pro, here are the settings I employ.
I usually leave the camera set on AUTO ISO, and I have it limited to 3200 ISO. For street photography and documentary work, the higher ISO’s are so good that there really seems little point in being picky about it. There is however a fishhook: at the time of writing the firmware seems set to lock the shutter speed at 1/52s and move the ISO accordingly. Because the quality of the lenses is so good, and because the camera is so demanding on camera technique, I would prefer it to favour high ISOs and deliver faster shutter speed. Perhaps we will see a firmware update which overcomes this. I hope the Fuji engineers are listening…
For landscape work or anything where I am anal about micro-detail, then I prefer to set the ISO manually, and, at this point, I favour the lowest ISO for this type of work. I also use a lower ISO when I am shooting portraiture. Remember, it is better to get a sharper file and soften it later in post-production.
While the auto white balance function is very good, for critical work I prefer to set the white balance manually. For landscape photography I favour having the white balance set to daylight, so I see the light which is there rather than what my mind perceives. In doing so I may be surprised at times, but it is all really about unlearning, and becoming more sensitive to the colour of the light in which I am working. Of course I will change the setting if I am working under fluorescent or tungsten lighting.
I use -1 as my default sharpness setting, since in-camera sharpness is usually a crude beast at best, and it is better to use one of the many proprietary sharpeners in postproduction than leave it to the camera. This means that out-of-camera files are soft, but rather this than something which looks like it was produced by a razor manufacturer.
Because the camera has the ability to expand or contract the sensor’s response to the dynamic range of the scene, I decided at the beginning to leave the camera to work this out for itself, and so I leave it set to DR Auto. So far I cannot find a single file where this function has not worked perfectly, either opening up the shadows or closing down the highlights. I might add that the sensor has considerable “headroom”, and much highlight detail can be recovered in Lightroom 4, which tends to be my default editor.
Again, like Sharpening, I prefer to do that myself in post-production, either using Lightroom or one of the proprietary noise reduction tools like Nik Define, Noise Ninja or Noiseware. So my camera noise reduction setting is -2.
Highlight and shadow:
Highlight is set to -1, to control any blowing out of the brights in the scene, and shadow is set to +1 to keep the shadows open. For the types of photography I do this seems to work admirably.
This is very much a matter of personal taste, and each of us will favour a setting which gives the best from the type of photography we do. While some of us will favour a less saturated look to our photographs, others of us will want a richer look to our photographs. Like me. My camera is set to +1.
Because the camera has been designed and built by Fujifilm, who have been making film for many years (and still do!), the film looks have a distinctive “Fuji” feel to them. Those of us who have been around long enough to remember working in film, will be well aware of the fact that each of the major manufacturers (Fuji, Kodak and Agfa) took quite a different philosophical approach to the same sorts of films. Kodak slide film tended to favour reds and blues, Fuji’s films were very strong on blues and greens, and Agfa’s films were quite neutral in their response. It is no surprise therefore that we have the option to select from any of the major films produced by Fuji. This includes standard (Provia), V (Velvia), S (Astia), NH (NHG colour negative),NS (Portrait colour negative) and of course the four black-and-white looks, which give a rendering similar to using Fuji Acros with no filter, with a yellow filter, with a red filter, and with a green filter. When working in colour I tend to use the Provia setting for most things, and switch to the Velvia setting for landscape work in soft light. Because I am shooting raw plus JPEG, I often adjust the film look to one of the black-and-white modes when I want to “think” and black-and-white. Remember that the principle of a colour filter applied to black-and-white film is that the filter lightens its own colour and darkens its opposite, so black-and-white landscape taken on a sunny day with yellow grasses and blue sky will tend to render the sky much darker (allowing clouds to “pop”) and render the grass tonally lighter. The yellow filter will give a subtle effect while the red filter will make the effects significantly stronger.
No doubt those of you who use the camera will have your own take on this, and your own favoured collection of settings and, no doubt, you will have very good reasons for doing so. I would absolutely welcome your sharing your own understandings. There is a space underneath this post for doing so.
I really look forward to hearing from you.