Fuji

Friday Image No.129

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Somewhere in the Borders of Scotland. Three image stitch taken with the Fuji X-T2 + 18-55mm lens. 1/105″ at f/11 and ISO200. 0.6 ND Graduated filter.

A couple of weeks back I showed a Friday Image that was a little different. It featured some grass on a beach, bathed in lovely evening light. This time I would like to share another very simple image. It’s a little different from the last but I find it very calming.

It’s three images taken with the Fuji X-T2 and which have been stitched in Lightroom. The bulk of the editing required was to switch the Camera Profile from Adobe Standard to Fuji Provia.

I hope you like it and have a great weekend.

New Fuji Lens and a Warning

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Misty morning in the trees at the Roaches. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens.
Misty morning in the trees at the Roaches. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens.

If you are a regular reader of my blog, then you may well be aware of the problems I have experienced with my Fuji 55-200mm lens. Following some rather odd results, the lens was returned to Fuji back in November who couldn’t find any problems. Wex then returned it for a second time following a review of some test images as they agreed, there must be a fault.

The lens is still being inspected by Fuji but Wex have kindly allowed me to trade it in against another lens. This is a huge help as being without a good telephoto lens means I can’t use the Fuji kit properly and always end up taking a second camera with me. Thanks to the trade in I now have the Fuji 50-140 f/2.8 + 1.4x Teleconverter and this weekend was my first outing.

Unfortunately, the location we chose was very foggy and remained so for most of the day. The fog did lift to a certain level but generally it was too dense to use the new lens properly. I did however manage a few test shots of distant rocks which a group of climbers were scaling. I mounter the camera on my tripod and lined up the shot using both the lens and teleconverter. The conditions were still with no wind and I was using a cable release.

To my horror, when I zoomed in to check the image I could see a lot of camera shake and the image was blurred. I tried again and again but I couldn’t remove the shake. I then tried removing the teleconverter to see if it was the cause of the problem but it wasn’t. The results looked very much like those I experienced with the lens I had returned.

Below you can see one of the problem images. Notice how the shake isn’t consistent across the frame and some areas almost come into focus but don’t quite get there.

Example of problem image.
Example of problem image.

And a section at 100% magnification.

Section of poor image at 100% magnification
Section of poor image at 100% magnification

Then through trial and error I worked out the cause of the issue.  Take a look at the image below which was shot immediately after the image above. This time the image is pin sharp across the frame.

Good image
Good image

And again, a section of the image at 100% magnification.

Section of good image at 100% magnification.
Section of good image at 100% magnification.

The cause of the issue was the Lee 0.3 ND grad filter I was using. With the filter on the lens, the images were out of focus and appeared shaky. With the filter removed the images were crisp and sharp. I could repeat the result time and again with all my Lee filters.

What appears to be happening is that the filter is causing a problem for the autofocus mechanism in the XT2 and it continues to refocus as the shot is being taken. Later I turned off the autofocus and could focus manual to capture a pin sharp image. If I set the camera back to autofocus the problem occurred again. What I haven’t been able to work out is why I have only seen the issue with the telephoto lenses. My other lenses (10-24, 16-55 and 18-55) all work fine with my filters.

This is one to watch out for if you are a landscaper and use filters. I was also wondering if anyone else has experienced a similar issue?

Friday Image No.125

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Bamburgh Castle at sunrise
Bamburgh at sunrise. Fuji XT2, 16-55mm (at 16mm) Fujinon lens. ISO200, f/13.0 for 1″. 0.6ND Graduated Filter.

I know this view has been shot a million times but I still love it. There is something quite magical about standing on a beach, in front of a castle, waiting for the sun to come up. Judging by the huddle of photographers around me at the time, I’m not the only person who thinks this.

Hopefully I can shoot some more images with less well known scenes this weekend.

Have a great weekend.

Friday Image No. 124

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Bamburgh sunset. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens. 0.6 ND Grad and Polarising filter for extended exposure. f/10.0, 2" at ISO400
Bamburgh sunset. Fuji XT2 + 16-55 lens. 0.6 ND Grad and Polarising filter for extended exposure. f/10.0, 2″ at ISO400

Last weekend I was up in Northumberland, staying at Bamburgh. As you would expect of any landscape photographer, I took the opportunity to shoot the castle at both sunrise (wonderful) and sunset (challenging).

The image above is from one of the rather challenging “sunsets” (there wasn’t any sun) but I still like something about it. I have experimented quite a bit with the processing, even producing the black and white version below. Despite this, I don’t think I have hit on quite what I wanted (although the B&W is my favorite) so I think it will be back to Bamburgh at some point. I will share a few of the better images in the future.

Have a great weekend.

Bamburgh at sunset through the dunes
Bamburgh at sunset through the dunes

Fuji RAW File Processing Improvements

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Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.
Waterfall near Thirlmere i the Lake District. Fuji XT2.

Many of you will be aware of my frustration over the poor results when processing Fuji RAW files with Lightroom. This apparently is a well-known problem amongst Fuji users who want to shoot RAW (although it wasn’t well known to me when I purchased my XT1). The problem seems to have spawned many different solutions among users, from trying to work with Lightroom using “quite extreme” settings to adopting other RAW converters. I personally have pursued and experimented with this last option myself, but it’s not ideal. Lightroom is a great tool and provides an excellent workflow.

Then, a few weeks back I reported here that following experimentation, I was now able to achieve improved sharpening results when using Lightroom. This involved minimising the use of the Detail and Threshold slider, then applying a subsequent Structure adjustment in Viveza. What I couldn’t rationalise though is why I was now experiencing such an improvement by holding back on the Detail slider when previously it had often been necessary to push this to 100%.

Then the penny has dropped.

I had been contacted by a couple of Fuji users who asked if I was aware of any improvements to Fuji sharpening in the latest release of Lightroom and Photoshop. Whilst I hadn’t seen anything, it made me realise that I had upgraded to the latest Adobe CC release, just before experiencing the improvement.

I have since processed a lot of XT2 RAW files and all are responding very well to a traditional sharpening and processing approach in Lightroom. In a recent comparison with my Sony A7r (with which I use with Canon L Series lenses), the resulting images are similar except the Sony has slightly larger dimensions and is slightly sharper at full magnification. Both images produce an excellent print where you can’t see any difference.

Here is an example comparison at 100% magnification. The image on the left was captured using the Sony A7r whilst the image on the right is the Fuji XT2.

Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2
Sony A7r compared to Fuji XT2

I wondered if this was just an effect when sharpening the XT2 RAW files, so I returned to my XT1 files and tested some of these. The results are also much improved. Comparing the results from Lightroom to the same file processed using the Iridient RAW converter, the gap has narrowed. The Lightroom results now appear much closer to those from Iridient when applying just Capture Sharpening. The Lightroom results can then be improved by applying Selective Sharpening in Lightroom as well as Structure adjustment with the Nik Tools.

Due to the workflow in Lightroom and my use of other cameras (Olympus EM5 and Sony RX10 & A7r) I suspect I will be using Lightroom for most of my Fuji RAW conversion. I may have occasion to venture into Iridient or RAW Therapee but where I need to work fast I think Lightroom is now up to the task.

I’m interested to hear if others have any similar experiences to share.

Bracketing Limitation Workaround

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Fuji XT2 six image HDR
Fuji XT2. Six images at 1 stop intervals blended using HDR processing in Lightroom. The image sequence was shot using the technique discussed.

From time to time I like to shoot multiple sequences of images at different exposures. I then blend these either with HDR software or using luminosity masks in Photoshop. My Olympus EM5 makes this very easy. I call up the bracketing option in the menu, set it to the number of exposures I want and the interval. I also set the shooting mode to continuous which allows me to shoot a sequence by holding down the shooter button. When the sequence is complete there is a slight pause allowing me to release the button. This makes the entire process very easy, allowing me to hand hold.

At the weekend, I came to shoot a bracketed sequence using the Fuji XT2. This also makes shooting the bracketed sequence very easy. There is a dial switch allowing you to change from single shot to bracket. You press the shutter button once and the sequence of three images is captured with no need to keep your finger on the shutter. I found this great, until the scene I wanted to shoot required a five-image sequence at 1 stop intervals. That’s when I found out that the XT2 is limited to shooting only 3 images in a bracket. Come on Fuji, please fix this in your next firmware update. It’s basic stuff.

Now, I should stress that it’s not just Fuji that seem to have overlooked the obvious. When I also came to set up my Sony A7r at the weekend, I found a similar problem. This camera can be set to shoot a bracket sequence of 5 images, providing you don’t want to set the exposure intervals to more than 0.7EV. As soon as you set the exposure interval for a bracket to 1EV or more, you can only shoot a 3 shot sequence. What on earth are they thinking.

If you have been frustrated by this limitation with your camera, there is a simple workaround (other than changing your camera):

  • Set your camera to bracket 3 shots at 2EV intervals in the Av mode (aperture priority) and set your exposure compensation to 0.
  • Shoot the bracket sequence of 3 images.
  • Set the exposure compensation to +1.
  • Shoot a second bracket sequence of 3 images.

This gives you two sequences of three images, but across the two you will have images at 1EV intervals. These will range from -2EV to +3 EV which is what you need for HDR and Luminance blending if you want to ensure maximum flexibility. Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to hand hold using this method but hopefully it will make things a little easier.

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Fuji Lens Update

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A long lens is an essential part of a Landscape Photographer's kit. Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 45-150mm.
A long lens is an essential part of a Landscape Photographer’s kit. Olympus EM5 + Panasonic 45-150mm.

Back in December I wrote about how my Fuji 55-200mm lens had been returned. I bought the lens second hand from Wex Photographic a couple of months earlier but then never really tested it. Yes, I took a couple of reference shots but nothing more. It was only when I had the lens on a shoot with me that something didn’t seem quite right. By then I had passed the 30 days return period which was my own fault.

In case you’re wondering what was wrong, I had problems achieving a sharp image either hand held or at any shutter speed. Look at this example of trees (click it to see the full resolution version). The left side of the image is out of focus but the right side is much sharper. This isn’t a depth of field issue as that would be front to back sharpness.

Full resolution XT2 image showing my 55-200 lens problem. The image is out of focus on the left but not the right.
Full resolution XT2 image showing my 55-200 lens problem. The image is out of focus on the left but not the right. Click the image to see the full resolution version..

Despite being outside the return window I contacted Wex who advised the lens comes with a 6-month warranty. The lens was returned to Wex who then returned it to Fuji for repair. Just before Christmas I received a message from Wex advising Fuji could find nothing wrong with the lens and it had been returned as working fine.

I called Wex and spoke to one of the team managers who was excellent – he understood photography. He spoke to me for around 20 minutes looking over in detail the hi-resolution sample images I had provided. His view was that there was a fault, possibly in the IS.

The lens has now been returned to Fuji and I’m waiting on the outcome. In the interim, the longest focal length I can shoot with the Fuji is 55mm. I keep returning to the EM5 for long shots.

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