Upgrade Your Camera by Changing RAW Converters

Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420".
Snow covered mountain on Rannoch Moor. Fuji X-T2 with Fuji 10-24mm lens. ISO200, F/11, 1/420″.

This week I feel the urge to highlight something to the readers of this blog. If the image quality from your camera and/or lens is disappointing you, don’t rush to change it. Instead, try a different RAW converter.

I’m seeing more and more that there’s a large variation in image quality produced by different RAW converters. You’re probably thinking there’s nothing surprising there, except it’s not necessarily one converter that comes out better than the others.

The Best RAW Converter Depends on Your Camera

As I investigate this further, what I’m finding is that a RAW converter that excels with one camera can perform poorly with another. And it’s not just the camera that seems to be a factor. Some RAW converters appear to handle some lenses better than others.

This is important. The image quality of some RAW converters with certain camera/lens combinations can fool you into thinking the lens or camera is at fault. Don’t fall into this trap.

A couple of weeks back I demonstrated this using RAW files from a Sony RX10 and RX100. This week I published this video on YouTube. It shows the results from four RAW converters, processing two Fuji X-T2 RAW files.

There are two interesting points to come out of this:

  1. The difference between the best and worst of the four RAW converters tested is significant.
  2. The best RAW converter changed with the RAW file. Although I didn’t highlight it in the video, this difference is down to the lens I used.

So, before you rush out to change that camera or lens that doesn’t quite perform, try using a few different RAW converters. It could save you a lot of money.

Friday Image No.215

I captured this week’s Friday Image in Scotland last week on the famous and Rannoch Moor. I was fortunate enough for my trip to coincide with a light snowfall. Had it been a heavy snowfall I doubt I would have thought I was lucky.

I used the Fuji X-T2 with a Fuji 10-24mm lens handheld. The pool of water you see in the foreground was really very small. It looks a lot larger than it is because I had the lens set to 11mm. To make the foreground loom large, I crouched down low and in close to the pool. I was also careful to avoid distorting the mountain with the super wide lens by keeping the back of the camera vertical. Had I tilted it the image the mountain wouldn’t have looked quite so impressive.

I didn’t use any filters for the capture as the camera could just about cope with the dynamic range of the scene. I processed the converted RAW file using a combination of Nik Color Efex, Nik Viveza and Luminosity Masks created with Lumenzia in Photoshop.

I hope you like the video & image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.214

Graveyard of the Trains, Bolivia. Five image stitch from an Olympus EM5.

Most of the photos I shoot are of landscapes; it’s the subject I feel most in touch with. But then from time to time I come across something and feel I must photograph it. That was the case with this image. The location was the “Train Graveyard” in Bolivia. It’s filled with old rusting steam trains from the past and is simply amazing – even if you don’t like trains.

What I also find quite amazing is how photo editing software has developed over recent years. When I shot this image four years back, I don’t think the panoramic stitching feature was available in Lightroom. That’s probably why the five images that make up this shot have sat on my hard drive for so long.

I captured the five images that make up this shot with an Olympus EM5 and Olympus 12-40mm lens. The camera was in the vertical position and the image taken handheld. Lightroom was able to stitch them very quickly and has made a good job. Except that is for removing the perspective distortion. To remove that I used DxO Viewpoint 3.0. I’m really starting to love this software and will be experimenting further with it in the future.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.213

Bolivian volcano. Olympus EM5, Panasonic 45-150 lens, ISO200, f/7.1, 1/320″.

It was 2014 when I shot this volcano image and it’s languished on my hard drive ever since. The volcano’s in Bolivia and this shot was from our base camp about halfway to the summit. Yes, I had the “pleasure” of climbing this. The lower rim (the coloured part) is 4,900m and the top part is 5,300m; I wish I could remember the name though.

Those days seemed much simpler to me in terms of camera equipment. I was using the Olympus EM5 with three lenses; 9-18mm, 12-40mm and 45-150mm. The entire kit would fit in a small shoulder bag which I could wear under my backpack. The Fuji now feels a lot larger somehow but doesn’t look when the two are side by side. I’ve even found myself considering another micro 43 camera; I suppose I should make more use of the EM5’s which I still have.

Anyway, I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.212

Heswall. Olympus EM5, 9-18mm Olympus lens, ISO200, f/8.0, 1/25″.

Today I’m returning to an image that I’ve probably shown before. It may not be the same identical file but it’s possible you’ve already seen this. I’m doing this because I’ve been back through my image library and reprocessed quite a few of the RAW files.

The reason for this is because I noticed some of my image quality problems of the past are fixed by changing RAW converter (no, I’m not talking about Fuji). In fact, some of the lens and camera performance problems were so bad I ended up selling the camera/lens. Now I’ve discovered the problem was mostly my RAW converter. If you want to see five examples here’s my video.

But back to the image above.

I shot this with an Olympus EM5 (micro 43) using the Olympus 9-18mm lens at 10mm. The camera was tripod mounted and I used an ND grad on the sky (2 stops I think). In the past when I processed this file it was a struggle. There were noisy shadows which lacked detail and a blown-out sky. The image also had a lot of distortion, especially in the corners of the frame.

The difference is that I used DxO PhotoLab to process the RAW file.

Now I’m not recommending switching to DxO, but it is interesting how good the RAW processing now seems to be. What I am recommending though is to always shoot in RAW format and hang onto your files. At least that way you can take advantage of future developments in software.

An unfortunate side effect of all this though is that it’s made me think of buying another Micro 43 camera.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.211

Foggy sunset looking across Hope Valley in the Peak District
Foggy sunset looking across Hope Valley in the Peak District. Fuji X-T2, Fuji 55-200 at 75mm, ISO200, 1/210″ at f/9.0. Tripod and 0.9 (three stop) Soft Kase ND Grad filter.

I captured this image a few weeks back now. At the time I wasn’t sure quite how best to process it and to be honest I’m still not sure.

I captured this from Bamford Edge in the Peak District looking across Hope Valley to the cement works. It was a little before sunset and the conditions were quite challenging. Not because they were unpleasant but because the light was so bright. The valley was filling with fog and the low sun was streaking through the clouds. I couldn’t see the image properly on the back of the camera and even using the viewfinder I was struggling.

At the time it looked like the conditions were so bright that they exceeded the cameras dynamic range, even using a three-stop Kase Soft ND Grad filter. I did bracket the shot (with the filter) using five exposures. My thinking was that I would create an exposure blend, but the image above is a single exposure. With some tweaking in Lightroom, I was able to control the exposure enough to create a good base image. Much of the processing was then with Luminosity Masks (using Lumenzia) before converting to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro.

I’m probably going to revisit the image when I have more time.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.210

Dramatic sunset on Whitby Pier, North Yorkshire. Fuji X-T2, 18-135 f3.5-5.6 WR at 18mm, ISO200, 0.7″ at f/10.0. Tripod mounted.

Today I was going to share a shot from a recent shoot I did in the Peak District, but I’ve decided to save that for another day. Instead I have this image which I shot on Tuesday in Whitby, North Yorkshire.

I had been over walking the Hole of Horcum with my wife. As it’s only a short drive to Whitby we decided to carry and get fish and chips before heading home. Secretly I thought I might get lucky and catch a sunset on the pier. Unfortunately, I lost track of the time and we only left the café about 10 mins after sunset. Luckily there was plenty of colour still in the sky still as you can see from the image. It just goes to show that you should wait a while after the sun has set before packing up.

I captured the image using the Fuji X-T2 and Fuji 18-135 lens. It’s performed remarkably well and is pin sharp. In fact, I’m rather surprised at how good the performance is for this type of subject.

The camera was tripod mounted and I used a cable release, but I haven’t used any filters. As is often the case, once the sun sets, the contrast or dynamic range in the scene drops to something the camera can handle.

Another stroke of luck was the lights came on at the point I took the shot and whilst there was still colour in the sky. Often the lights seem to come on once all the colour has gone.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Friday Image No.209

View from Waterhead in Ambleside, The Lake District. Nikon D800 with Nikon 70-300 lens. Three frames at f/11.0, ISO100, 1/13″. Kase 0.9 soft ND Grad on the sky and tripod mounted.

Last weekend I took a trip to the Lake District with a friend to photograph the snowy scenery. Our intention was to hike up Lingmoor Fell for a view of the Langdales at sunset. On the way, we decided to stop off at Ambleside to capture the sunrise on the lake. As it turned out there wasn’t a sunset or even a sunrise to speak of.

The conditions were bitterly cold in the morning and the sky was clear blue. This did though leave the rising sun clear to hit the trees and hills on the opposite side of the lake. That’s when I shot the above panorama. It was quite fortunate as a group of about 30 swimmers decided to enter the water immediately in front of us. The long focal length allowed me to leave them out of the frame. It was however interesting watching their reaction to getting into the water when the air temperature was -4C.

I captured the image with my Nikon D800 and Nikon 70-300 lens. It’s three frames stitched in Lightroom to produce the panoramic which I processed in Photoshop using the Nik Collection. I also made use of quite a few Luminosity Masks using Lumenzia.

I hope you like the image and have a great weekend.

Making Mirrorless Work

%d bloggers like this: