Fuji X Series Settings And Post

Okay I am about done with my rant on Adobe. I was so enraged that I almost forgot to post a quick discussion on my Fuji X100 and X100S settings that I promised someone yesterday. Here it is. This will probably be disappointing for most of you as I don't have a bunch of super secret combinations that make everything just flow with effortless ease but I will share how I found it works best for me and my stubborn brain. I will also share a couple of thoughts on post processing RAW files. Unlike a lot of stuff here lately I will be using Aperture 3 instead of any Adobe products. I like Aperture better anyway. At least most of it.

Lets start with the X100/X100S settings first. Your milage may vary so do what works for you. Some things I almost never ever use…

  • Auto chimp - hate it and find it very very distracting. Especially in the viewfinder. Off permanently.
  • Autofocus modes other than single point single shot. Funny thing is that even though the AF point selection is far easier now I almost never ever use it. I would say 95% I am on center point AF and recompose when using AF. If I were a tripod shooter with this camera (I see no sense in that) I would probably use other AF points a whole lot more. Honestly messing with the AF point is gives me no real speed advantage and I don't end up shooting shit loads of the same exact framing and composition anyway. Same goes for AF lock - sort of pointless for me.
  • There are a lot of occasions where I absolutely do not want to refocus for every shot. The single biggest improvement to the X100 or X100S for me would be holding focus and frame parallax if the shutter release was not fully released. This would make the camera absolute killer and far more fluid. Too bad you must release the shutter fully which causes a refocus and re-frame sequence which is slow and very distracting for how I use cameras. When faced with this I switch to manual focus instead of focus lock. It's just far far more convenient. I hit the AE/AF lock button to achieve focus where I want it. Push the little toggle thingy to get a zoomed EVF focus peaking view to verify or fine tune. Press it again to go back to OVF and run with it instead of dealing with AF lock. The buttons are toooo touchy and cumbersome to hold the shutter at half press, then simultaneously press the AF lock then reframe. I have tried both for me just going to MF is faster.
  • I am 50/50 between aperture priority and full manual. The exposure comp thing never made much sense to me. If I am on Aperture prio I just roll with it instead of trying to outsmart the evaluative metering. If I am in conditions where I am making multiple shots and going to chimp/adjust exposure I just set it manually and am done with it until I move to the next scene instead of having my exposure and exposure comp vary based on framing. Every time I try to figure out why people do it with auto and comp I re-prove to myself it's a crap shoot and don't bother. If your lighting conditions are all over the map for the same subject (rare) I guess there may be a use but that would make comp all over the map too?
  • I turn everything to high performance - everything with no power save stuff at all. Especially with the X100S the start up time is nada and I just turn it off when not actively making images. Better.
  • I don't use auto DR or any of the JPEG fine tuning crap. I occasionally choose a different JPEG rendering but stick to Pro-Neg-H or Astia or strait up black and white when I know I will be using the OOC JPEGS immediately. Mostly because I always shoot RAW+JPEG. The auto DR stuff is all doable in post on RAW anyway and drives me insane because it and other things have a side effect of turning off exposure info prior to half shutter press - just my quirk.
  • My custom function button on the top of both cameras is set to activate the ND filter. Very useful because 80% of my shots are between f2 and f4.
  • I never use macro mode on the X100S - just don't need it. It focuses very very close. Especially using the EVF or back of camera. Not true on the X100 - I used macro mode all the time because the X100 was just shy of closest focus in normal mode for my uses.
  • I use one of two view modes - viewfinder only or auto sense. Mostly auto sense. It's really fast.
  • Don't use the Q button much as 90% of it is really JPEG-y crap. I kind of wish I could turn it back into ISO selection but it's not a big deal that's where its located most of the time anyway.
  • I tend to use the "normal" AF point size and don't change it much unless I am doing something really critical and close - very rare use of the X100 for me…
  • I am trying to decide if I like the auto manual focus assist just pop up when you touch the focus ring or not. Right now I vacillate between that and just bringing it up myself by pressing the toggle in. I am leaning toward just bringing it up myself and bringing it back down myself we'll see.

So there you have it - no magic. To tell the truth the best thing about the Fuji is the shutter speed and aperture dials I keep it very very simple and use it very simply. Messing around in the menus - Q button or no Q button - is just distracting to me and doesn't seem to make life any more wonderful than just switching between things as I have discussed. When it comes down to it the most important things are aperture, shutter, focus, and paying attention to your subject. I mentioned the one thing that would make the X100 and X100S absolutely superlative to me - that half shutter press behavior after you take the first shot. Honestly I believe this would be transformative in terms of making the camera absolutely dead simple and completely fluid. I mean half the menu and option shit and lock shit is to modify that behavior anyway - so are the manual focus toys. The second thing would be to make the Aperture ring work in third stops or be completely variable between the full stop clicks instead of having that toggle thingy in the mix. Shooting RAW I usually don't bother anyway as most decently lit scenes are not really that sensitive or critical.

I know you are all prolly let down with my cave-man like use of the camera but it works for me. Alternatively you can listen to the Strobist's seemingly 8 hour long description of every single menu item on the X100S - god that has to be the most pedantic thing I have ever seen unless of course you happen not to have ever used a camera before. As an added bonus you can see him blow his nose. Don't get me wrong - the guy has some great info out there - this is not that.

Now for some Aperture 3 love. I am going to show you two things first off is a fairly typical set of adjustments I make to Fuji RAW files in post that are kind of variable on an image to image basis - or for me a scene to scene basis that I lift/stamp to all images in a particular scene. The second thing is one of a couple different presets I have made that are universally applied in Aperture. I will use an X100 image but the presets are tweaked only a tiny bit for my X100S. No I don't use VSCO for Aperture as I find them harder to adjust than just rolling my own. I really wish the target for VSCO was a consistent rendering across RAW processors…

Anyway let's start with the OOC RAW file on import for a baseline. This image was far from perfect as I was testing a bunch of different shooting methodologies with the X100 so it needs a bit of exposure and WB adjustment.

Exposure and WB in Aperture is dead easy. First off I added about a third of a stop more exposure. Interesting to note that Aperture 3's exposure adjustment tool produces almost identical results in terms of curve shape to acutal in camera exposure variations. This is really nice sometimes and others… not so much. From a photographer's point of view it's a nice reference point though. Moving on to WB - I used to just eyeball it with temp and tint but have really grown to trust the "skin" mode WB tool. It's actually friggin fantastic for the most part. Especially if you have not had a shit load of experience with color grading skin. Skin is all over the map even on the same person. Take a couple different samples and see what's best. After a bit you will get the hang of where samples make the most sense. Here is my baseline plus 0.2 warmth based on taste. This happens to be pretty neutral - you could actually add a bunch of warmth using the slider without going all orangey horrid. That warm/cool adjustment from the baseline sample is perfectly calibrated for the most part to get just about any rendering in the realm of taste to fairly fine degrees. A good thing when doing skin. Here's the adjusted baseline…

Still all wrong as most default RAW renderings are so I will apply one of my homegrown presets.

That particular preset is sort of a blending of Kodak Portra variations in terms of tonal curve and overall color rendering. Nothing I claim to be "accurate" but generally in the same ballpark as how it looks when I shoot real Portra. You can pretty much see the major components of what I consider a baseline preset for a "normal" color neg look. Here's the call out of exactly what they are.

  • That curve is a little strange and simple looking but it has three points and has been tweaked since I have had my X100 along with a few other ones I use. It fixes a multitude of sins of the default tone curve. What I typically refer to as contrast in all the wrong places. Probably the biggest thing here.
  • The next biggest thing is the overall saturation is way way way way too high for me so I have a fairly massive global negative saturation of 0.9. I am being a little bit facetious with the hyperbole but a little bit goes a long way. One of the reasons I like the warm/cool slider in the skin mode WB as it's calibrated for subtlety.
  • Next biggest thing. Is that color adjustment block it tweaks four specific colors in both subtle and fairly major ways. First note that pink sample at the far left. It shifts that specific pink and surrounding hues about 12 points towards orange. That is a whole lot. Second thing - that orange sample. It's typical skin hue - negative 15 points in saturation. Also huge. The green is a default green block - it shifts greens a hair towards blue and away from yellow as well as bumps up the saturation a hair. Last is the default blue block, that bumps up the luminance a whooping 10 points as well as shifts blues toward purple a hair.

There you have it. All my X100 secret sauce. Much the same recipie tweaked slightly differently for the X100S. Just as a note Aperture 3 does a fantastic job on X100 and now X100S files. I would have no issue living in Aperture 3 with the X100S. A few people have emailed me and asked if I would do something similar to my Nikon Aperture presets for the Fuji X cameras. Specifically to match the OOC JPEG's exactly.

Short answer is NO. I have tried and there is almost no possible way to get the blue luminance anywhere near where the Fuji JPEG's are without completely forking up the purples and blowing blue channels in any saturated blue or purples. The best I can do is match the tonal curves which is fairly easy. Honestly the OOC JPEG blues look nothing like the way Fuji film looks. Here is what I will do if there is any interest. I will productionize a couple of looks I believe look a whole lot like real film that I actually shoot a lot with a few bonus things to match tonal curve and color response more closely etc etc. Let me know and I will get on it as soon as I have a chance. Also let me know if any of you X100S/XTrans shooters out there want some more walkthroughs specifically with how good Aperture 3 can be with the X-Trans sensor RAW files. Quite good actually…

RB

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