Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Fuji X-Pro1, Lightroom and SILKYPIX

After my series of blog posts on the Fuji X-Pro1's sensor (here, here, here and here), Sean Reid of Reid Reviews contacted me about the posts. I've known Sean since 2007, when I was developing CornerFix at the same time that he was investigating the IR issues on the Leica M8. At the time, Sean was very helpful, supplying a number of test images for CornerFix.

Unknown to me when I wrote the original X-Pro1 posts, Sean had been busy on an extensive comparative review of the Leica M9, Leica M Monochrom, Fuji X100 and Fuji X-Pro1 for an article called "Four Window Finder Cameras". As part of his review, Sean independently discovered a number of anomalies in the rendering of X-Pro1 images using SILKYPIX and Lightroom. After seeing my posts, Sean contacted me with some queries about my results. Following on from subsequent discussions, I've processed several of Sean's test images through PhotoRaw and various versions of "PhotoRaw Plus" for comparison purposes.

Sean has taken those results, and put together a really comprehensive comparison of how Lightroom, SILKYPIX and PhotoRaw each render X-Pro1 images. The result is fascinating, even for me. Sean's results cover both high and low ISO images, and, among other things, delve deeply into how each program processes noise and chroma. His results confirm several of my guesses about how SILKYPIX and Lightroom are processing X-Pro1 files, but also significantly extend what we know about getting the best from the X-Pro1. (Spoiler alert: SILKYPIX isn't as good at processing X-Pro1 images as you might think!).

Sean's site is a subscription site - Sean doesn't take advertising from anyone, and so is completely independent - but if you're thinking of buying an X-Pro1, X100, Leica M9 or Leica M Monochrom, or you already have an X-Pro1 and want to know how to get the most out of it, Sean's article is a "must read".

14 comments:

David Karmeli said...

As a long time Fuji user I've always had conversion quality issues using anything other than their own HyperUtility software. This was the case with their wonderful S1, S2 and S3 cameras too. ACR, SilkyPIx, DXO, ACDSee, Bibble, etc., just never did the Fuji files justice. From yours and Sean's articles it seems that Fuji is still facing the same problem but unfortunately they're no longer developing their own dedicated software.

Alex said...

Have you taken a look at RPP? They seem to be getting pretty good result (see thread: http://www.fujix-forum.com/index.php?/topic/4553-raw-photo-processor-rpp-fuji-x-pro-1/)

Sandy said...

Alex,

I did look at RPP in the second of the posts I linked to at the top of this post. It did well in many situations, but was prone to quite severe zipper artifacts on straight edges.

MikeJMcFarlane said...

Hi Sandy,
I've really enjoyed your articles on your development process. It's great to see them linked to across many photography forums and to read people writing with a bit more knowledge and interest in science and technology as a result of your writing. As an ex-engineer I think that can be hard to do, so good job:-)
I too have thought a lot about your conclusions. It seems there is something qualitative about the Fuji sensor, rather than any quantitative conclusions.
I wondered if this was some kind of buyer bias, even though I strongly felt that the look of the Fuji files was much better, to my eyes, than bayer layouts. I read this article on Cicadas and web design the other day http://designfestival.com/the-cicada-principle-and-why-it-matters-to-web-designers/ It resonated with the effect of the Fuji sensor. By creating an almost random layout the resulting image looks more 'natural'. Sure there is colour smearing as you have pointed out, and on man-made objects such as the paper clips this is pretty obvious and annoying. To a product photographer it could be a real deal breaker. But for portraiture and landscapes with lots of man-made chaotic edges, the layout of the Fuji sensor works (for me.)
Is it perfect? No. Is it a more accurate representation of reality? No. But colour smearing or not, on the right subject this camera rocks.
Fuji have done many things to make this camera niche, and this just does it a bit more.
Thanks again.
Mike

Sandy said...

Mike,

Thanks. Interesting article - I agree on the "naturalness".

There are a lot of very positive things you can say about the X-Pro1 - handling, the lenses, etc. And there are a lot of positive things you can say about the sensor. It has very good high ISO performance, for example. And to your point, the irregular pattern may give a more "film like" rendition than a conventional sensor, somethings that many people may prefer. Also, many people may also prefer the distinctly Fuji color rendering to that of other cameras. All good reasons to buy the Fuji X-Pro1.

Where I have a problem is that Fuji have very explicitly claimed that the X-Pro1 has better resolution that a camera with a conventional sensor, and many reviewers have echoed that claim. That's the bit I don't see. Not in the JPEGs, not in the SILKYPIX rendering, or the rendering of any other raw converter, including my own(!)

Liandro Siringoringo said...

Hello sandy my name is Liandro, RAW conversion from third party is not there yet, I agree.
Could you explain how the basic sensor works from capturing the image and then producing the jpeg files?

If What I assume is right which is the sensor captures an image originally in RAW and converts it into jpeg with the built in engine inside the body camera, then adobe should have just called fuji and ask how did they write the codes of the body engine that producing the spectacular image in jpeg.

If what I assumed is very wrong, which is obvious due to the lack of knowledge in imaging system and IT, so if I stick with the jpeg and not bothered with RAW conversion until the third party software company could work it out, will that be ok?

If I post processed the jpeg from X-Pro1 will the same problem(the RAW PP and converts to jpeg causing the smearing thing)occur?

If the jpeg PP also screws up. Then how can I live with this camera?

Really eager to hear your reply Sandy and also the other that is willing to share their opinion.
I'm really torn up whether I want to buy X-Pro1 or OM-D but really have my eye on the X-Pro1 so I gather as many info as I could before I make a move.
Really really need help here.

Thank you very much.

Cheers

Sandy said...

Liandro,

I'm afraid that a full explanation of sensor to JPEG flow is too complicated to answer here - it would take a a lot more full blog posts.

In terms of which camera to buy, you should really try both of them in a camera shop - the X-Pro1 and OM-D are very different cameras that handle in very different ways, and I think that you will find that any differences in image quality are overshadowed by how comfortable you feel with each camera. Only if you can't chose between them that way would I start to worry about differences in image quality.

Liandro Siringoringo said...

"Only if you can't chose between them that way would I start to worry about differences in image quality"

LOL you are right sandy. The fact that camera is a long term investment makes it harder to come up with a decision. And..what makes it harder because in my country, you don't have that privilege to try a camera in a store.

just a couple of days ago I went to a camera store, lets say its brand is vanilla.

here's the conversation:

me: Could I try the vaNilla-EX 7 sir?
sir: Unfortunately you can't
me: Can I just hold the camera to feel its handling?
sir: I'm afraid it's locked and I don't have the key.

yeahh..

Anyway, I'll try both of the system..definitely.
Thanx a lot Sandy for your Reply.
Really appreciate it.

Cheers

MikeJMcFarlane said...

Hi Sandy
I agree on the resolution, I always just put that down to 'Sales copy'! (I'm trying to be polite you understand lol)
I have enjoyed the 'naturalness' and the lack of the AA filter but more resolution is not the right description.
I suppose in a way it must be difficult to write sales copy for a camera like this as you need to work within jargon that will be understandable to most people, resolution is now a very ambiguous term, and it is very much a personal preference as to which look people like. There seem to be plenty people preferring the look of a Sony camera's file, the Nikon D800 seems to have a lovely look too that is getting wide praise.
It's great to have choice. And maybe that is the point, by being 'controversial' Fuji have drawn attention to and created discussion about what is undoubtedly the Fuji look. Something they are always keen to do drawing on their film heritage, and creating differentiation in a crowded marketplace where that differentiation goes beyond mere specs.
Fuji have certainly done some interesting things in the release of their cameras and have created a lot of buzz and fans in the process. Whether I agree with their approach or not, it has interested me to follow it.
Best, Mike

stblank said...

Hello Sandy,

As another X-Pro1 user shooting only in RAW, I have been led to your blog from Fuji X Talk Forums. Thank you so much for posting the series on the development of the X-Pro1 RAW conversion. I find the blog series really interesting. So thanks again!

Fuji X-Files Admin said...

Hey Sandy, I have read all of your posts on the X-Pro 1 RAW results. Thank you for taking the time to explain and compare this.

But there is one thing that I have been wondering about. Fuji has a good internal RAW to JPG converter. Why don't they just turn that internal processing into a program or script to use as an external RAW converter? Surely my i7 Mac has more processing power than the EXR Processor inside the camera. Am I beeing to naiv or did Fuji choose not to do it?

I have been using my X-Pro 1 for over 4 month and changed my former RAW (Canon 5D MK II) to JPG (X-Pro 1 and X10) workflow because of the more pleasing JPG results that I get...

Sandy said...

As regards the in-camera JPEG, it certainly is a good rendering. I'm not quite convinced that it's better than the SILKYPIX version however; the in-camera JPEG doesn't quite seem to have the resolution that SILKYPIX gets.

Turning the internal converter into a program, while possible, would be quite a lot of work, and quite expensive. SILKYPIX already has a raw engine that works ok - I'd think that Fuji/SILKYPIX made a cost based decision to modify the existing SILKYPIX engine rather than try to graft the camera converter, which would have been written to use the camera's image processing hardware rather than desktop hardware, into SILKYPIX.

sean said...

Have you compared to Capture One? 7 was just released and I am using it for M9 files.

Sandy said...

Capture One doesn't support the X-Pro