Photokina Day 2 – Capture One 8

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Introduction

In my recent RAW Converter for X-Trans comparison, it quickly became clear that Capture One 7 offered fairly substantial improvements to image quality for X-Trans sensors over other big all-in-one solutions, Lightroom and Aperture. Yesterday, I received an email to inform me that version 8 of Phase One’s software had been announced. Today I sat with a very knowledgeable member of the Phase One team to talk through the changes to Capture One, and what improvements have been made (or will be made) for Fuji shooters specifically.

Improved Catalogues

Catalogues have been improved, but the big deal is full catalogues can be imported from both Aperture and Lightroom. This is great news for Aperture users looking for a place to turn after Apple’s announcement support would be discontinued, and for Lightroom users looking to get more from their RAFs.

The import process is “pretty smart” according to Phase One. Not only will metadata be preserved (ratings, labels, etc.), but some basic editing will also be pulled into Capture One. This includes things like Exposure, Brightness, and Contrast. Local adjustments of course won’t be preserved, nor will adjustments like Clarity and Definition as they don’t have direct equivalents.

It will be interesting to see just how well this import process works, but it’s nice to know something like this is available.

Tethering

Tethering isn’t supported for Fuji cameras, and there are currently no plans to do so. This is a real shame, but like a lot of items not yet available to Fuji users, if the demand is there, it will happen. If you want tethering in Capture One, let Phase One know. They are listening.

Edge Selection

Edge Selection isn’t supported yet, but they are working on it. Because of the X-Trans sensor, they have to work things like edge selection a little bit differently. It’s good to know it’s in the works.

User Interface

No more crappy menu bar texture! The Phase One dev I talked to didn’t like it either. Overall the UI is much nicer. Cleaner, and without those terrible drop shadows. Very pleased.

Unfortunately full screen mode still doesn’t work the way most people would probably like, but this is another area they are working on, so hopefully we’ll be able to go wide screen and have the panels show always soon.

Shadows and Highlights

These two features have been completely rewritten. When you import a version 7 catalogue, you will be presented with the option to use the new version 8 engine, similar to Lightroom going from 2010 to 2012. Version 8 turns on new algorithms for Shadows and Highlights. The result could be considered as slightly less overall recovery, but the transition between recovered and unrecovered portions of the image are much more natural. This was demonstrated very clearly for me.

Clarity

A “Natural” clarity method joins “Neutral,” “Classic,” and “Punch.” I haven’t had an opportunity to check out the differences yet.

Local Adjustments

Capture One catches up to Lightroom a bit in this area with the addition of White Balance and Noise Reduction local adjustments, but also adds HDR as a new one. This sounds like it could come it really handy.

Aberration Correction

In previous versions of Capture One, fringing could be “over-corrected,” resulting in grey edges where the fringing was. It can now be scaled back for improved correction.

X-Trans Performance

For now, X-Trans rendering is strictly CPU bound. We won’t get to enjoy the GPU optimizations that DSLR owners will. This might not be so bad for owners of computers that lack a discrete GPU, but Phase One are looking into ways of bringing those optimizations to us. Again, the more they hear users want X-Trans support, the more likely they are to provide it, so let them know.

Fortunately, X-Trans CPU performance has increased in many areas from 1.5x all the way up to 2x.

In general there’s been a lot of recoding on the Mac in particular for optimization, and further stability improvements. So far I’ve found 7 to be really solid, but more stability is always welcome.

Image Quality and Camera Support

There have been overall improvements to image quality for X-Trans and preliminary support for the X30 has also been added.

Missing In Action

I asked about a before and after keyboard shortcut, and it’s still missing. They seem content with the creation of Varients as a history and don’t believe that seeing the image as it appeared at import compared to where the image has been taken is very important. This is a matter of opinion, but the real problem is the Browser must be explicitly selected for one to arrow back and forth between two Varients. I watched the dev search for a faster method, but none existed, so I think it may have sunk in a little that they’re still way behind Lightroom, Aperture, and even Nik in this area. Capture One needs a way to see the Before at all times with one keyboard shortcut.

Conclusion

With all these improvements, and Capture One 7’s already superior demosiacing, it’s getting really difficult to not switch over entirely. I intend to do just that once I get home and can download the update.

Photokina Day 2 – X100T Prelim Review

Introduction

I wasn’t even certain they had X100T’s on the show floor at first, but I’ve had a good amount of hands-on time with a couple of them, so much so I feel I can draft up the beginnings of an early review, and I had my X100S and X-T1 at the ready for comparison. This is Fuji vs. Fuji after all.

The X100T is all about usability rather than image quality improvements, and from that angle, I’m very excited to have one of these cameras.

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Grips and Handling

I love the new cross-hatched focus ring. It is much more grippy than the slotted grip on the X100(S). Big improvement. It also looks cool, for whatever that’s worth.

The hand grip isn’t more substantial, but it certainly feels that way as the rest of the camera is a little less deep. It’s not a dangle-from-your-fingers sort of grip, but it helps your fingers feel more like they have a place to rest.

Th finish is also exactly the same as opposed to the new rubberized grip found on the X-T1, and the new X30. I have to say I’m slightly disappointed by this as I really like the finish on the X30. It’s less slippery and more sure in the hand. Plus consistency in the materials would make sense.

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Buttons, Dials, Switches

The D-pad buttons are a big improvement in tactile feedback and precision. Placement has also improved with one exception. The View Mode button has been placed above the image review button which is always the top left button on the rear of the camera. I know I’m going to be constantly pressing that button to review images, and wondering what’s going on. Beyond that the placement is great, they are super responsive and every intentional press registers immediately. I thought maybe I’d miss the click-wheel. I don’t. The other nice thing is, despite not having as much room on the back, it doesn’t feel anymore cramped, in fact, it feels roomier. The new button arrangement really helps.

The new exposure compensation dial with ±3EV is nice. Still waiting for exposure bracketing to increase from ±1EV though.

The EVF/OVF switch has gone back to the original X100-style lever since it’s is now bidirectional. More on that in a bit.

LCD

Ah, nice and large. My X100S’s EVF looks puny by comparison now.

OVF

The live parallax refresh works fantastically well. While manually focusing, it moved as quickly as I needed it to. The frame will also dance around the viewfinder window when set to Continuous AF. Not at pro DSLR pace, but it’s definitely quick enough to help track little ones who might be running around.

The OVF/EVF hybrid is nice. I figured at the very least I would want to keep it on for focus confirmation while in AF mode, but in the samples, I can sometimes see what’s actually in front of the viewfinder ghosted behind the inner EVF, especially if your eye isn’t square with the viewfinder. Perhaps this is something that will be improved with firmware as we near the final release, or it could just be something that needs getting used to. It’s an interesting sensation having the EVF overlaid atop the OVF.

Pushing the viewfinder lever one way toggles the hybrid EVF on and off, the other direction switches entirely to EVF mode.

EVF

X-T1 owners will be right at home with this EVF. It’s not as large and seems to lack some contrast compared to the X-T1, but it’s pretty big—larger than the X100S—and refreshes just as quickly as the X-T1’s. Then there’s the rotation of the improved UI.

Autofocus

During my testing, it felt an awful lot like the X-T1, which is what we were expecting. I will be interested to see if it is able to match the X-T1’s night-vision-goggle-like autofocus in extremely low light.

User Interface

Fuji keep refining the UI of their cameras and it keeps getting better. The X100S UI feels older, and it’s evident that some decisions we’re made as a compromise for the lower resolutions displays, both in the EVF, and on the LCD. I really like the “look and feel” of this UI.

Classic Chrome

As mentioned in my X30 review, more quality Film Simulation Modes are always welcome. Zack Arias says he’ll be using Classic Chrome now and nothing else. I’m not willing to go that far, but it will definitely see some use. And it seems we have confirmation that all X100(S) users will soon be able to enjoy Classic Chrome as well.

Conclusion For Now

The X100T is another incremental step, but it’s a large stride in the progress of Fuji’s X100 line. It’s not earth shattering, but the improvements to usability will take the uncanny enjoyment that seems to infect every photographer who uses one, that much higher.

Should you upgrade?

X100 users, no question. If you love what the X100 offered, and you passed on the S, the X100T will be a huge upgrade in every respect from image quality, to user experience all round. For X100S users it’s a little bit different. You could probably make a pretty decent return by selling your X100S, and in that respect, the difference could easily be worthwhile.

I’ll of course be doing an extensive head to head with the X100S so I’ll be getting one, but if I didn’t have this site as an excuse, I’d likely follow my own thinking above and sell my X100S to fund an X100T. I almost think of it as an iPhone upgrade. Could I get by without it? Sure. Would I enjoy the day to day use of the camera, making the cost per day well under a couple of dollars over the course of the next year? Absolutely. Looking forward to getting my own.

Photokina Day 1 – 90mm, 16mm f/1.4, 16-55mm, 50-140mm, Super tele-photo, Zack, and La Roque

One day down, one to go.

Zack

We kicked today off with a talk by Zack Arias. He was... Zack. Well, he started out as Zack giving a talk, but soon after it was like reading one of his blog posts, or his book. My wife—who is a decidedly less of a photo nerd than I—also enjoyed Zack’s tips, found him charismatic, and could relate to his approach to street photography.

Zack, sending a shot he took of an audience member to his Instax

Zack, sending a shot he took of an audience member to his Instax

Fuji 50-140mm f/2.8

Next we spent some time at the Fujifilm booth. The hands-on stars of the show were the X-T1 Graphite Edition, and the 50-140mm f/2.8. Sadly, Fuji aren’t ready to let us mount the 50-140mm on our own cameras or put one of our own SD cards in their 50-140mm-mounted X-T1 so we can’t post samples yet, but the build, and image quality I was seeing on the LCD were both exceptional. Autofocus was fast, but slightly inconsistent. I have no doubt this will be remedied by the time the lens goes to production. The lens is large, but it doesn’t feel as front-heavy on the X-T1 as I was expecting. At 995g, it’s 2/3 the weight of Canon or Nikon’s equivalents, and that all-internal focus keeps the overall length consistent.

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X-T1 Graphite Edition

The X-T1 Graphite Edition was nice. It’s essentially an X-T1, but in a silvery graphitey colour. It looks pretty cool from the front especially, and Fuji wanted to ensure I knew the graphite coating was a 6-step process with the colour being baked onto the camera, vs. just bare aluminum. Whether that’s worth the premium on price, well, you guys will decide that.

Behind closed glass doors

90mm f/2

The 90mm f/2 was on display, behind glass, and sort of tucked away. It is one hefty-looking piece of glass. That lens looks to be around the same length as the 56mm f/1.2, but considerably thicker.

EDIT: After a second viewing, the clear the 90mm is going to be substantially larger. It’s pretty much a proportionally scaled up version of the 56.

I’m looking forward to that lens, but I have a feeling it will really call for the VG-XT1.

 

 

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Super Tele-Photo Zoom 140-400mm f/4-5.6

Another one behind the glass, but some preliminary specs were revealed. The lens markings say 140-400mm f/4-5.6. I’m told that’s not quite final yet though. The lens is another thick one—this is Fuji’s sumo year I think—but the prototype doesn’t appear longer than the 50-140mm. There is quite a range on it, but I hope they find a way to make it an f/4 constant. There’s something about variable apertures I’m just not into.

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16-55mm f/2.8

And finally, Fuji’s standard zoom is still behind glass. This is one A lot of people are most eager for and sadly the release date slipped, but I’d rather they get it right rather than rush it out. Here are some more comparison images. It’s surprising how much larger this lens is compared to the 10-24mm f/4.

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The 16mm f/1.4

This one was hiding on from me. I didn’t even realize it was behind the glass until the second day. As far as size goes, the 16mm f/1.4 doesn’t appear to be a great deal larger than the 14mm f/1.4, although I think Fuji maybe have been playing a trick on us as in the comparison image below, the 16mm is the only one that doesn’t have its rear cap attached.

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One thing that’s extra nice is the focus ring that’s pulled back for manual focus, that reveals the engraved depth of field markings.

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Patrick La Roque

After scoping out some other players, we made it back to the Fuji booth in time to see fellow Canadian, Patrick La Roque speak. Patrick is a super nice, down to earth dude whose work I really admire. He spoke about storytelling, and then did a live demo—models and all–that turned out really well.

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Other Players

I spent a lot of time checking out the other players of course, but one standout for my readers was Phase One. No joke, I was going to ask Phase One about any updates planned for Capture One when the email announcing version 8 landed on my inbox. Sadly, I couldn’t find anyone who spoke enough English to walk me through the new features, but I’ll try again tomorrow, and will look into updating my Raw Converter comparison once I’m back home.

That’s it for now!

I’ll be back for more tomorrow, but for the most part, I think one day at the show for consumers is plenty. I’m pretty happy to have just the one brand to cover.

Photokina Bound

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Fuji vs. Fuji is headed to Photokina!

This year I am fortunate enough to be going to the big show. I hope to do a bit of live reporting from the show floor—and of course, the Fujifilm booth.

Afterwards, we’ll be extending our trip to a couple of weeks in Europe. As a result, Fuji vs. Fuji will be on a bit of a hiatus during that time, as we put our Fuji gear to good use.

Cologne, here we come!

Backblaze

Last year I decided that the local backup strategy I had in place for my photos wasn’t cutting it. Not to mention leaving for vacation with my computer and external hard drive backups “hidden” didn’t leave me feeling particularly at ease. A break-in or fire could have resulted in my gear—and thus, all my photos—being gone forever.

I decided it was time to give Backblaze a try. For those who don’t already know, Backblaze is remote backup for everything that’s on your computer, including any connected external hard drives for $5/month. The price was never an issue; $60 a year for unlimited remote backup, and crazy fast retrieval of my files is a no-brainer. The problem I was faced with was my initial backup, which clocked in at just under 1 terabyte.

I’m not gonna lie, for me it sort of sucked. In Canada, we’re faced with mostly terrible options when it comes to ISPs that have comically low bandwidth caps, and even worse upload speeds. I initially tried to manage my backup to only allow my monthly allotted bandwidth. It was impossible. What I ended up doing was paying for unlimited bandwidth during the time it took for my initial backup to complete. It gets worse. If I dared use the entirety of my puny upload limit of 3 whole MB, my 35MB/second download speed would grind to a halt. This makes absolutely no sense, but that’s what we get for trying to use the service for which we’re paying for legitimate reasons. This meant keeping my upload speed to 1MB or maybe 2MB for the majority of my initial upload. That was painful. The initial backup took well over a month, but that was 100% the fault of my awful ISP, and the fairly large amount of data I had to push upstream. I’ve heard mamy reports of people pushing many times the data I had in well under a week.

Now that my initial back up has completed, Backblaze could not be easier. I don’t even think about it. I leave my max upload speed at around 2MB/second, and take solace in the fact that I have a complete remote backup of all my stuff. I’ve tested the retrieval process a bunch of times, and it works flawlessly. The only minor inconvenience is having to pause my backup on occasion while watching Netflix. That terribly ISP again.

So why am I writing about this? Well, if there’s one thing I know my readers have, it’s photos. Losing all your photos would suck. I also like Backblaze so much that I can recommend them without hesitation. If you’re thinking about getting yourself a remote back up, and you should, consider using a link to my newest affiliate, Backblaze. A full year will probably cost less than your monthly cell phone bill, and I guarantee you will feel better knowing you digital stuff is safe. I know I do.

On Buttons

If the rumours are to be believed, Fuji are doing some interesting differentiating with the button layouts of their cameras. Take the most recent leaked photos of the X100T.1 It appears to have a D-pad that’s very much like the one found on the X-T1, no functions assigned to it via icons. I’ll assume it will be the new and preferable clicky variety. The images of the back of the camera look great to me. Very clean. No more scroll wheel. It will be interesting to know if the toggle has moved to a dial as well.

Now, the just-announced X30 has a D-pad that’s more similar to the X-E2, complete with even more icons delineating their function. Fuji’s consumer-centric cameras tend to all feature this more protruding and icon-laden D-pad whereas cameras like the X-T1, which is decidedly more “professional,” has the customizable and more recessed D-pad.2

It’s interesting to me that the X100 line of cameras is taking on the X-T1 style D-pad and I fully expect the X-Pro1 successor to do the same. This suggests that Fuji slots the X100 into less of a consumer space which coincides with it’s price, and the fact that it’s a fixed focal length. The X30 couldn’t be more targeted at the more casual “consumer” shooter.

If these photos are real, it’s nice to see Fuji bringing consistency to their cameras like this. It makes a lot of sense for them to take no the role as expert with the more consumer-focused cameras and tell the user which buttons do what, but let the more serious shooter make up his or her own mind about how the buttons behave.

 
  1. I have to say, their poor quality and the fact that the OVF/EVF switch has gone back to how it looked on the X100 (non “S”) makes me question their authenticity a little. EDIT: With the addition of the OVF/EVF hybrid mode, it makes perfect sense for Fuji to go back to the symmetrical viewfinder switch as each direction from middle serves a different purpose.
  2. The X30’s buttons are all fully customizable as well, but Fuji have provided their suggested designation, which is a subtle suggestion that digging into the menus to adjust things is less of a necessity.

The “Best” X-Trans RAW Converter

Perhaps my most fussy article to date, I’m going to great lengths to determine what the “best” RAW converter is for X-Trans sensors. As it stands, I’ve only examined how these applications treat a typical wide angle image shot with a FUJINON XF 14mm ƒ/2.8 on an X-E1. I will add more images as time permits.

See for yourself what the best RAW converter for X-Trans is.